A Ferraro-Mondale ticket

Could it be that the ticket is turning into a Ferraro-Mondale ticket? Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chairman Tony Coelho says that if that is true he really doesn't care, at least for the time being. He still characterizes Walter Mondale as ''dull'' and says that if Rep. Geraldine Ferraro has become the star, so be it.

Mr. Coelho says the Republicans are panicking over the advent of the personable Ms. Ferraro. He says the original Reagan plan was to ignore his opponent. But they are now struggling with the problem of just how to deal with this fresh new element in politics, a woman in the No. 2 spot.

The Democrats are hoping the campaign will divide into two stages: (1) in which Ferraro rescues a ticket that has been looking like a sure loser. This she has already done. And (2) the emergence of a ''new'' Mondale who, after his lift from his running mate, will begin to take on a persuasive and winning luster.

The accomplishment of this second objective clearly lies ahead. Mr. Mondale is talking with much more assurance. He's working well with Ms. Ferraro. And as a team they are drawing crowds and attention.

The accepted rule is that no presidential candidate should be overshadowed by a running mate. Also widely acknowledged by presidential-watchers is that a No. 1 who is so obscured by No. 2 is likely to lose, simply because voters vote for president, not for the vice-president or a combination of the two.

Before the convention, Democrats were calling Mondale a sure loser. Some were even using that derisive word that denotes a ''nothingburger'' in politics - a ''wimp.'' Actually, Walter Mondale's record, including the vice-presidency, shows he's a politician of considerable power. So perhaps he simply was getting a ''bad rap'' from his critics.

If so, it is conceivable that the Minnesotan will, given this propping up from Ferraro, now be able to mount a persuasive campaign, one that will draw the spotlight on him and his plans for reshaping the presidency.

If the Republicans want to help keep Ms. Ferraro in the lead role they could accept her challenge to debate Vice-President George Bush. In fact, they now seem to be moving in that direction. They could, indeed, visualize a possible ''no-lose'' scenario in which (1) Mr. Bush actually beats Ms. Ferraro or (2) Ms. Ferraro bashes Mr. Bush and by so doing continues to overshadow Mr. Mondale in a way that would weaken the Democratic ticket.

But no rule is infallible. No Roman Catholic was supposed to be electable to the presidency. That is all forgotten after John F. Kennedy shattered that restriction.

And right up until the Democratic convention it was almost a political precept that a woman would bog down a presidential ticket, in either first or second slot. The intelligent, personable, attractive Ms. Ferraro has already thrashed that bit of conventional wisdom.

So who's to say that a Ferraro-Mondale team - with the woman and man sharing the lead role and with Ferraro's charm overshadowing Mondale's unexciting image - might not work politically. Maybe the country is ready for a man and woman working as a twosome along the campaign trail. Perhaps another unbreakable rule is about to be consigned to oblivion.

If the Ferraro-Mondale twosome continues to thrive, it is possible that a new kind of presidency would be promised - and, perhaps carried out: One in which Mondale would have Ferraro visibly at his side in the running of the nation.

of 5 stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read 5 of 5 free stories

Only $1 for your first month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.