RICHMOND -- Thanks to state Attorney General Mary Sue Terry, "Super Tuesday," less than six weeks off, is finally getting some attention in Virginia.

The timing of Terry's endorsement of Sen. Albert Gore Jr. of Tennessee for the Democratic nomination for president was serendipitous not only for Gore, who needed the boost, but also for Terry.

While an aide to Terry insisted that her meeting with Gore Satur- day at the Key Bridge Marriott in Arlington was "the only time he could make it," it resulted in Terry grabbing headlines on the very day her prospective rival for the Democratic nomination for governor next year, Lt. Gov. L. Douglas Wilder, held his own media event, a pair of parties celebrating his 57th birthday.

Lest anyone think that Terry's move was indecorous, it must be noted that politicians' birthdays are often not only movable feasts, but also movable events. Wilder's birthday was a week before his self-congratulating fund-raisers. In December 1986, at the Hampton Coliseum, Sen. Paul S. Trible Jr. (R-Va.) celebrated his 40th birthday two weeks before the event and raised $400,000.

It is not necessary to decide who one-upped whom last week. Terry and Wilder appeared to have accomplished what they sought.

Terry's emboldening endorsement of Gore may help silence critics who contend she is too cautious and hesitant, and it may diminish suggestions that she is too conservative for mainstream Democrats.

Also, it provides the attorney general with an excuse to make speeches around the state. She has said she will announce her own plans for 1989 shortly after the legislative session ends in mid-March.

Her action puts her ahead of her 1985 Democratic ticket mates, Gov. Gerald L. Baliles and Wilder, in displaying a willingness to go out on a limb on behalf of a candidate who is far from being a front-runner, an action that has the earmarks of leadership.

Even if Gore doesn't get the presidential nomination, "he's on everybody's short list for vice president," one party official said, and Terry would have "an answer to the question, 'Where were you in '88?' " And she'll have a good mailing list of Democratic contributors for her fund-raiser.

Baliles, continuing the "boldly cautious" attitude he has displayed on many issues, says he's not going to endorse a candidate before the primary.

The governor's reluctance to take a stand prompted one exasperated party official to shrug and observe, "After Super Tuesday, or even after the New Hampshire primary, who cares?"

Wilder appears to be dusting off an "after you, Jerry," posture on a presidential endorsement.

But then, Wilder isn't running for president, despite comedian-social activist Dick Gregory's remarks at Wilder's birthday ball.

"Everybody asks me if Doug is running for governor," Gregory said. "The people who invited me here said he was running for president."

Whether Wilder is running for governor is in doubt only officially. His two events in Richmond Saturday netted about $100,000. That proves, as one party leader noted, that "Doug can be economically dependent of Smith and Diamonstein." Dels. Alson H. Smith Jr. of Winchester and Alan A. Diamonstein of Newport News are two of the Democrats' premier fund-raisers.

"Does it mean he can win the nomination hands-down with this {majority black} crowd" of more than 500, the white official asked rhetorically. "No," he went on, "but from a financial standpoint, it's a success."

The $100-a-person dance at the Richmond Convention Center, which featured Gregory and The Four Tops, followed a $1,000-a-person black-tie dinner attended by about 200 people.

Many were out-of-state backers who lined the driveway of the Richmond War Memorial Carillon with waiting chauffeured limousines, a lower-than-low Lamborghini and assorted Mercedes-Benzes.

A Baliles loyalist, irked at Wilder's recurring guerrilla attacks on the governor, ridiculed Wilder's fancy dinner as "the only foxhole in the world that has strolling violinists, lobster tail and steak Diane."

Although Baliles gave the toast at the dinner, that did not stop Wilder from offering his legislation to remove the state sales tax from nonprescription drugs in the face of Baliles' assertion that there is no room in his budget for a tax cut.

Nonetheless, even Wilder's detractors concede that the fund-raisers produced a significant amount of money, which is generally recognized as a legitimate test of a candidate's viability.

As one party worker put it, "showing a politician that you like him enough to write a check" is a sure sign of sincerity in an often insincere world.