Walter Mondale already is running for president. One of Mondale's closest former aides, privy to his plans says this is so. Some other Mondale allies echo and underscore this view. And Democratic governors assembled here are convinced of it.
And the former vice-president himself is indicating by every politically related word and action that he already is a defacto candidate.
In Mr. Mondale's comments here at a Democratic fund-raiser, he made it clear that there could be no victory ahead for him or for any other Democrat by simply attacking President Reagan and his programs.
Instead, Mondale asserts, there must be a new Democratic agenda, and he says that in a few weeks he will be providing at least the beginnings of a new, alternative Democratic program -- one, it seems, on which he intends to run.
Further, Mondale is telling friends that he must run in 1984 if he is to make the most of the political prominence and visibility he gained from his four years at President Carter's side. Thus, he says, he will take on Mr. Reagan whether or not the President still is riding high.
But Mondale seems convinced that Reagan's economic program will fail, that the big tax cuts will fire up inflation without bringing about the stimulation to the economy or the savings by Americans on which the President is counting.
But whatever Mondale's "new agenda" may turn out to be, it likely will be an extension of the old Democratic political doctrines begun under Franklin D. Roosevelt and perhaps best expressed by Mondale's old mentor, Hubert Humphrey.
his "old-time religion," as Mr. Humphrey sometimes called it, came out in a recent Mondale speech to the National Urban League, when he called the Great Society and the civil rights struggles in which he played a major role "the most successful peaceful revolution for human and social justice in the history of humanity."
Again, at that gathering he said, "We started to arm people with tools to compete in a less discriminatory America: good education, decent health, care, better housing, programs to rebuild the cities and strengthen our farms, economic development programs. . . ."
Mondale is assuming that Jimmy Carter will not run again. But he's letting it be known that he intends to continue his quest for the nomination under any circumstances, even if it means picking on his old friend and White House companion.
Actually, Mondale's friends are saying that one reason the Minnesotan is making it clear so early that he intends to seek the presidency is to sent out a definite signal to Carter.
Mondale, of course, cannot dissociate himself from Carter -- and this is considered by some Democratic lea ders to be a serious if not politically fatal liability.