Washington — Voters will find a clearer choice for the US Senate than will Texans when they go to the polls next week. Running for the Republicans is one of the most conservative members of Congress, Rep. Phil Gramm. Three years ago he played a central role in directing the budget knife that sliced into federal spending, especially in social welfare programs.
The outspoken former economics professor has said during the campaign, ''We're going to hear a lot of moaning and groaning'' about people who have lost benefits. But he told a gathering in Austin: ''I'm not going to debate how to fund their (Democratic) programs.''
''What better nutrition program is there than 7 million families'' with jobs, said Mr. Gramm. ''That's the kind of nutrition program I favor,'' said the congressman who helped trim back federal food aid.
Democrat Lloyd Doggett, a state senator, has spent most of his public career trying to make government better serve the public, especially consumers and the elderly. The federal government does have a role to play in assisting schools and students, small businesses and Texas farmers hit by a drought, holds Mr. Doggett.
In Texas, where being called ''liberal'' is almost an insult in many communities, Doggett says of the term, ''I love it if it means I've got a sense of responsibility and compassion.''
But the Democrat has tried to paint himself as a moderate. The choice ''does not have to be (between) a government of bleeding hearts and a government of no heart at all,'' he says.
Both candidates have come out slugging in a contest that might not be as nasty as the senatorial race in North Carolina, but rates as a close second. Doggett depicts Gramm as a right-wing extremist who is more interested in national affairs than in Texas. Gramm hits Doggett on the ''moral'' issues, including the Democrat's opposition to organized public school prayer and his acceptance of contributions from gay groups.
Doggett has countered with a homey television spot showing him and his family gathered around the table, saying grace.
But he has found himself on the defensive during most of the campaign, especially in the rural Texas towns whose support is the key to a victory.
''I'm a Gramm supporter because he represents the views of the people of Texas,'' says P. M. (Bubba) Gerald, a rancher in the tiny central Texas town of Hamilton. ''The working man should be for Gramm as far as taxes go. Doggett - he's not going to cut the budget. He's got all these special interests he made promises to. The working people are going to pay the taxes.''
Hamilton resident R. M. Daniel, a retired manufacturing worker and labor union member, defends Doggett. ''He is for social security,'' he says. ''He's for the old people,'' the ''middle (class) man, and the poor man.''
However, there may not be enough voters who agree with Mr. Daniels to elect the Democratic candidate. With President Reagan holding a massive lead in the Texas polls, the winds are blowing against Doggett. Both camps agree that Gramm is ahead.
He is expected to keep the seat, vacated by the retiring Sen. John Tower, in the Republican column.
Last of six pages on regional contests in the Nov. 6 election. Previous pages appeared Sept. 6 and 20, Oct. 11, 23, and 26.