Don Rose has been called a professional agitator, a leftwing radical, Mr. Rent-a-Picket, Chicago's Don Quixote, and a political hit man obsessed with hatred for the late

It's true that Rose, a soft-spoken, intense intellectual of 48, has spent some of his finest hours battling Daley's once-fabled machine.

He helped Martin Luther King Jr. embarrass Daley with civil rights marches. He helped Abbie Hoffman and the National Mobilization Committee embarass Daley at the 1968 Democratic National Convention. And when the convention turned to a bloddbath, Rose hired a lip reader to find that Daley had yelled obscenities at Sen. Abraham Ribicoff (D-Conn.) for having the audacity to accuse the mayor of gestapo tactics

But now Rose, the classic outsider, is an insider, a key adviser to Jane Byrne, who upset Daley's old machine to win the Democratic nomination for mayor.

His very presence sends some ward heelers into a slow boil. "I've been fighting them for a long time," he says with the same relish the skinniest kid on the block might express after he has beat the daylights out of the neighborhood bully. "They just can't be very comfortable with her having me around."

Rose and Byrne are an odd match. She is a traditional Democrat, a Kennedy liberal. He is a radical, a tough political streetfighter.

"Don is a socialist," says a campaign adviser. "But Jane likes to think of him as an extreme liberal."

Rose's reputation as a crafty political operative was built on his fights with the Daley machine. His batting average against the machine was never very high (about .250), but neither was anyone else's. His hand was in almost every succesful anti-machine drive in the last decade of Daley rule, including two stunning victories-electing a Republican state's attorney and electing a congressman, the late Rep. Ralph Metcalfe, after Daley had dumped him.

Byrne's reputation was built on Daley. She was his right-hand woman, his commissioner of consumer sales and co-chairman of the Democratic organization.

Rose and Byrne didn't even know one another until a few months ago. Rose, however, was an old friend of Byrne's husband, Jay McMullen, a real estate writer for the Chicago Sun-Times. And he would drop by McMullen's desk to talk politics when he delivered his weekly restaurnat review to the paper. Rose and Byrne finally were introduced at a party in December. A month later she asked him to do her television commercials and offer general advice.

Rose, who advised maverick alderman William Singer in his unsuccessful race against Daley in 1975, considered Byrne "in many ways an ideal candidate"-a view few others saw.

"She is an insider who made a clean break with the machine," he said in his sparsely furnished living room, cluttered with piles of unread magazines and unopened bills, near the University of Chicago. "She showed courage and honesty when it counted. She's not a radical reformer, but she represents an element of the party-the Kennedy Democrats. She came up through Kennedy's 1960 campaign, not through the ward organization."

Rose told her to change lipstick, buy a new coat and tune down her shrill rhetoric. He designed leaflets with Mayor Daley praising Byrne as "the most competent" woman he'd ever known, and making her, not incumbent Mayor Michael Bilandic, appear his chosen heir. He put her in the snow in television commercials at a time when Bilandic couldn't get the buried streets clear or the buses moving.

Bilandic's campaign responded ineptly. "it was very clear from three days after the snow started to fall that they were making every mistake possible," Rose says. "They could do nothing right. We could do nothing wrong . . . He was very badly advised. One could almost think someone up there was on our side."

Still, even on the eve of the election, Rose wasn't convinced she'd win. It would take magic, he said. When she did, he was overwhelmed. Suddenly, Don Rose, the outsider who mobilized support for the Chicago Seven trial, who coined the war cry "plantation politics" for Martin Luther King Jr., was on the inside. His name and face were on TV and in the papers.

Pressures rose for Byrne to dump him. Rose, complained Robert Gibson, an Illinois labor leader, "is obsessed with destroying the so-called machine . . . can't make any king of compromise or accommodation."

Byrne stuck with him. "She thinks he represents a legitimate point of view in the community, and that point of view won't be closed off in her administration," says press secretary Andy Bajonski.

It's a tribute to the new realities of Chicago politics that a machine regular, John W. McCaffrey, locked in a tight aldermanic race, has recommended Rose be installed in a top City Hall job after the April 3 election.

Rose isn't interested in that. Working 18-hour days would interfere too much with his freewheeling lifestyle, his meeting with newspaper friends for drinks at Ricardos, the restaurant and book reviews he writes for the Sun-Times, the political pieces he does for The Reader, an alternative weekly, and the radio show he produces.

He considers himself more a writer than a political strategist. "I don't want to be viewed as a literary pimp," he says. "I don't want to be Jane Byrne's Arthur Schlesinger."

But Rose would like to make sure his views are represented in the inner circles, perhaps as a part-time consultant. "I'd like to be able to walk into her office and say I think the city should establish a program on such and such," he says.

Last week, as all the old elements of the Daley organization-labor, ward bosses, businessmen-coalesced around Byrne, Rose sat back with quiet satisfaction.

The new commercials he had made for the April 3 general election, in which Byrne is expected to defeat Republican Wallace Johnson, were ready for airing.

"There's a new spirit of Chicago and you helped it happen," Jane Byrne says in one. "I promise you as mayor the days of clout will end, and the people will have their city back."