Americans might understandably greet the final week of the 1984 campaign with a sigh of relief. The final road stops ahead can be counted. The end is in sight. Walter Mondale will have swung through the industrial crescent states from the East Coast to the Great Lakes, and along the West Coast, where his best hopes lie. President Reagan will visit Massachusetts, where he could conceivably score a psychological victory by winning the Democratic bastion himself and carrying into office GOP Senate contender Ray Shamie; elsewhere he will shore up support in the farm belt and seek the big plums of Pennsylvania and Texas.
The race has tested public interest, partly because it has been so long, partly because serious issues have been left half buried, and partly because the outcome has never seemed deeply in doubt.
The commanding Reagan advantage in the polls could narrow in the closing days. The expectation alone that the Reagan lead is unsurpassable could prompt many Americans to vote for Mondale, following a familiar contrarian impulse to reduce a winner's margin: Many Americans like a competitive race. Too, Mondale seems finally to have caught the evocative, effusive stump style of his mentor, Hubert Humphrey, which thrust Humphrey within a whisker of victory in 1968.
This is the third Mondale we have seen: The first, for most of the pre-primary period after January 1983, was cautious, buttoned up, intent on avoiding a front-runner's mistakes. Then came the aggressive ''Where's the beef?'' Mondale of the primaries, who returned to cajole the President in the first debate. Now Mr. Mondale is appealing to the broad Democratic tradition, with its emotional and progressive emphasis on seeking equality of opportunity for Americans, which contrasts with the Republican theme of individual opportunity.
It may be that Mr. Mondale has had an unwinnable hand to play from the outset. The economy at election time looks prosperous: Inflation and interest rates are down, personal income up. The strong dollar hurts exports and jobs but otherwise attracts capital from abroad, sustaining the recovery and helping to offset the federal deficit's credit demands. The deficit is an abstract issue to most Americans; those for whom an unbalanced budget usually waves a red flag are supporting Mr. Reagan on other grounds. Warnings the economy may not be able to grow quickly enough to overtake its deficit sound, to many, like a potential, not a conclusive, alarm.
Going for the President may also be a public longing for a successful two-term presidency, or for what some political analysts call an ''easing period ,'' free of the agitation that can accompany social or economic change. Much is said of Mr. Reagan's popularity. But his approval and personal popularity ratings actually fall in the midrange for recent presidents. Longtime students of Reagan performance raise questions about a second term. If he returns to the White House in 1985, will the President bring in new talent and ideas? He has resolutely stuck with most of the same key players through his first term, and there are few signs that little more than a shuffling is anticipated for a second. Through the campaign, the President's strategists have stressed his record instead of initiatives for the future. Is passivity, an absence of zest, a risk for a second Reagan term?
Although it's been a lengthy and, in many ways, unsatisfying campaign, we can all hang in there another week. In its essentials the 1984 presidential election will decide whether the Reagan revisions of national policy, begun in 1981, should continue awhile longer, or whether a Democratic alternative should be invoked. This decision is worth our support and attention.