Robert Short, 65, owner of the old Washington Senators baseball team and an unsuccessful candidate for the U.S. Senate from Minnesota in 1978, died Nov. 20 in St. Mary's Hospital here. He had lung cancer.

Mr. Short revived the Washington Senators baseball franchise in Washington shortly after Calvin Griffith moved the orginal Senators team to Minnesota in 1961. He said he had trouble making a profit with his new team and angered fans by trading or selling top players. He was said to have enjoyed contacts with top sports personalities and was able to lure Ted Williams to hire on as manager.

He hired and fired Billy Martin as manager after he moved the Senators to Arlington, Tex., in 1972, where they became the Texas Rangers. He said he moved the team to get a better stadium and better broadcast contracts. As a result of this move, Washington was left without a major league baseball team for the first time in more than 50 years, and Mr. Short became one of the most reviled sports figures in Washington's history. He sold the Rangers in 1980.

He was a longtime admirer of the late Hubert Humphrey, serving as Democratic National Committee treasurer during Humphrey's 1968 presidential bid against Richard Nixon.

Mr. Short entered politics in 1946, running unsuccessfully for Congress. He remained active in the party, but was best known for the fiery but losing battle he waged for a U.S. Senate seat in 1978.

Mr. Short defeated Rep. Donald Fraser, now mayor of Minneapolis, in a bitter primary race. Fraser had won the endorsement of the Democratic Farmer-Labor Party at its convention. Mr. Short lost the general election that year to Republican David F. Durenberger.

The closest Mr. Short came to winning office was in 1966, when he ran for lieutenant governor of Minnesota on a ticket with Karl Rolvaag and lost by 27,000 votes out of more than 1.2 million votes cast.

Mr. Short got his financial start in the trucking business, where he became a millionaire, by borrowing $15,000 to buy an interest in a small firm. He built it into a major freight hauler known as Admiral-Mer- chants, later expanding into hotels and real estate. His properties included the Leamington Hotel in Minneapolis.

At one time he also owned the Minneapolis Lakers of the National Basketball Association. He gained control of the team for $150,000, moved it to Los Angeles in 1956, and sold it in 1965 for $5 million.

Survivors include his wife, Marion, and seven children.