Virginia Gov. John N. Dalton, who a year ago was voicing private bemusement at former Navy secretary John Warner's senatorial ambitions, yesterday endorsed Warner as Republican nominee for the U.S. Senate.

Dalton said he was taking the action because he felt "with the exception of (former Gov.) Mills Godwin, John Warner was the one to assume leadership in the Republican Party."

The GOP State Central Committee is scheduled to meet tomorrow in Richmond to nominate a successor to the late Richard D. Obenshain, who died last week in a plane crash.

Jeffrey Gregson, executive director of the state party, said it now appears unlikely any other name but Warner's will put before the committee.

Dalton said he had sent a letter to all 78 members of the committee voicing his belief that "there is a very close compatibility" between Warner's political views and those of Obenshain and his conservative supporters.

"I am certain he will carry on in the tradition of Dick Obenshain," Dalton said.

Warner sixth husband of actress Elizabeth Taylor, raised well over $100,000 for Dalton's statewide ticket last year in a series of personal appearances with the actress at party fund-raisers around the commonwealth.

Dalton was privately voicing his support for Warner as early as June's state convention and earlier in the week made a series of telephone calls that resulted in the withdrawal from the race of Warner's last potential major challenger, Rep. M. Caldwell Butler (R-Va.).