In the small-town restaurants and rural county courthouses of Virginia, the well-tailored figure of Clive L. DuVal II is seen these days trying to shed his "liberal Northern Virginian" label.

He moves from town to town, from one small gathering of Democratic Party workers to another, telling them that he "bears no scars from the battles that have divided our party."

He says he is the moderate "citizens' legislator" who can put together the traditional blocs of Democratic voting strength. He assures everyone that he has the staff and money to organize a campaign that can "counter any effort to paint me a kook."

DuVal and many state party officials believe he has a good chance to win the Democratic U.S. Senate nomination at a June 9-10 convention in Williamsburg. However, they are equally convinced that he must lose the "liberal" identification tag he has earned in the General Assembly as an advocate of consumer environmental protection and conflict of interest legislation.

After 13 years in the Assembly, six in the House and seven in the Senate, DuVal stands out as the patrician populist of Virginia politics.

He lives at Salona, a 50-acre, 18th century estate in McLean that he and his wife restored 27 years ago. He speaks of his personal wealth as a political asset, but he rides a Greyhound or Trailways bus to Assembly sessions in Richmond, stays at a motel on the wrong side of the capital's main avenue and often takes his evening meal at the White Tower across the street from the Assembly office building.

Not long after he came to the House, he rankled an influential conservative, A. L. Philpott of Henry County, now the majority leader, by trying to toughen the state's first clean rivers bill, a Philpott measure that he did not want changed.

In the next session, he took on another senior conservative Democrat, then Del. Lewis McMurran of Newport News, who also was chairman of the state Air Pollution Control Board. McMurran and the rest of the board fought DuVal's effort to put together air pollution standards into the state law, but DuVal won that one.

As recently as last week, DuVal was still jousting with the Assembly establishment. He angered Senate president pro tem Edward E. Willey of Richmond by opposing his bill that would have restored the pension benefits of a former Richmond judge deposed by the state supreme court for illegally disposing of guns and liquor under court control. The relief bill died when its backers concluded it was unconstitutional.

Throughout it all, DuVal has kept his credentials as a Virginia gentleman by outperforming the courtliest of the Old Guard in civil conduct. In the midst of a losing DuVal fight for a consumer bill two years ago, conservative Democratic Sen. William F. Parkerson of Henrico County rose and said, "The gentleman from Fairfax is so genteel, I really hate to oppose him on this bill."

Now DuVal sees this reputation as another campaign asset. "There is a great feeling for gentility and civility in Virginia," he said in a recent interview. "I think I would fill that bill."

DuVal has been a close political of former Democratic Lt. Gov. Henry E. Howell, last year's nominee for governor and a central figure in the strife that has divided the state party for almost 10 years.

DuVal believes he can hold onto Howell's core of support in the party while disassociating himself from the wargare that has gone on between the Howell camp and modern-conservative Democrats. He told a Wythe County party meeting last week:

"I haven't been in the political battlegrounds since 1970. I bear no scars. There is not a long list of people waiting for a chance to vote for the other candidate because they are against me."

In 1970, DuVal made his only other statewide political race by seeking the Senate nomination after Sen. Harry F. Byrd announced he would run as an independent. He lost a three-way race to former State Sen. George Rawlings by 701 votes out of 135,000. He waived his right to a runoff election and served as finance chairman for Rawlings, who was clobbered by Byrd in the general election.

Now, DuVal points out that he was the moderate candidate in the primary race with Rawlings, who was supported by Howell, and cites his waiver of the runoff as evidence of his commitment to party unity.

One of the party moderates who urged DuVal to make the 1970 race was then Attorney General Andrew P. Miller. Miller lost the nomination for governor to Howell in a primary last year and now is looked upon by DuVal as his chief opponent for the Senate nomination.

Former delegate Carrington Williams of Fairfax County and State Sen. Hunter B. Andrews of Hampton also are viewed as contenders for the Senate nomination. Other candidates are former Fairfax supervisors Frederick Babson and Rufus Phillips, Norfolk City Council member G. Conoly Phillips, and Flora Crater of Fall Church, who was lieutenant governor in 1973.

DuVal's hopes for winning the convention rest on the belief that he will get a majority of delegates from Northern Virginia, strong support from black delegates, labor and teachers and a good share of "second choice" notes from delegates disturbed by Miller's failure to succeed last year in an expensive primary campaign against Howell.

DuVal is financing his campaign primarily with $250,000 that he borrowed on Salona. The mortgage is more than twice what he and his wife paid for the estate in 1951. He tells party meetings that he hopes to raise another $50,000 to $75,000 for the convention effort and is certain that he can raise the $1 million that he believes will be needed for a general election campaign.

Running the DuVal staff is Pat O'Connor, former campaign aide to Sen. John Culver (D-Iowa). Key staff members working to marshal support of black delegates are Ronald Charity, black voter coordinator for Howell last year, and Michael Brown of Richmond, Broyn worked for unsuccessful lieutenant governor candidate Richard S. (Major) Reynolds last year.