A PERSUASIVE case can be made for asserting that a woman will be on the national ticket again in 1988. It could well be that the Democrats will pull back from such slating for a while. But the Republicans are ripe for doing what the Democrats did last time -- or perhaps even more. Just why the Republicans will need to go out of their way to woo women voters in 1988 comes through clearly in a New York Times/CBS News poll showing that when women were asked whom they would vote for in this year's House elections, they gave the Democrats a clear advantage of 42 to 35 percent. Men who were asked the same question gave the Democrats only a statistically insignificant edge.
Yet, despite Ronald Reagan's ability to pick up 56 percent of the women's vote (62 percent from men), Republican strategists know that without the ``great communicator'' at the head of the ticket, there is not too much hope of once again winning over the female vote. And with a likelihood of a very close race in '88, there are some GOP leaders who are saying that to shape a victory, it may well be time to field a woman in either the No. 1 or No. 2 spot -- although it would more likely be the latter.
The Republicans have some splendid, highly qualified women who, in theory, might be tapped to break the sex line at the top of the ticket. For sheer brains and class, where could one find a better candidate than Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, who is emerging as a highly respected, independent force on the Supreme Court?
But the presidency must be sought, and Justice O'Connor isn't going to get involved in the scramble involved in winning primaries to gain the presidential nomination. Indeed, she would probably say -- and mean it -- that she simply isn't interested in running. Apparently she thoroughly enjoys what she is doing.
Although it is very doubtful, the Republicans might persuade Mrs. O'Connor to take the second spot on the ticket. She would be a particularly good running mate for George Bush, who may need someone at his side who is more acceptable among conservatives.
Jeane Kirkpatrick, of course, is even more acceptable to the right wing of the party. But she is so strongly outspoken, so fiery and combative at times, that she would probably overpower most presidential candidates, should she be placed in the No. 2 spot. In fact, some presidential candidates might feel that, if elected, they would have trouble getting along with Mrs. Kirkpatrick.
Kirkpatrick, of course, just might go after the presidency. There are those who see her as a potential Margaret Thatcher, a woman who could elbow out the toughest male competitors in a rough-and-tumble primary process and then go on to gain the presidential nomination.
But the most likely spot available for a woman in '88 is the second place on the Republican ticket. And the woman who seems most admirably equipped for the opportunity -- in terms of political know-how, experience in government, and campaigning charm -- is Sen. Nancy Kassebaum, the daughter of that former presidential candidate and elder statesman, Alf Landon.
No one would have to ask where the senator would ``fit'' on a ticket -- that is, with whom she could run comfortably and to whom she could provide strong political assistance. She is widely viewed as a ``moderate'' but has shown herself able to draw votes among party conservatives and moderates alike.
Mrs. Kassebaum, like her father, is very strong in her convictions. But like her father, too, she can fight her battles without antagonizing or polarizing people. She is unfailingly good-humored and decent. It would be almost guaranteed that she would be able to attract a lot of women who would otherwise vote Democratic -- and a lot of men, too.
Transportation Secretary Elizabeth Dole is another very attractive and experienced woman waiting in the wings. She and her husband, Sen. Robert Dole, have yet to sort out which one will run for president. It will probably be the senator.
Mrs. Dole has been mentioned as a likely candidate for the No. 2 spot.
Senator Kassebaum has likewise been mentioned as a vice-presidential possibility -- but not if Bob Dole is the presidential nominee. Two Kansas senators together would make for a ticket that is lopsided in the middle.
Godfrey Sperling Jr. is the Monitor's senior Washington columnist.