RICHMOND, JULY 18 -- If there's no truer gauge of a politician's potential than the ability to raise money, then Virginia Lt. Gov. Donald S. Beyer Jr. looks like he may go a long way.

Beyer, who borrowed more than $1.6 million for his 1989 campaign, is getting help in retiring his debt from dozens of individuals and businesses that didn't support him in his uphill battle against Republican state Sen. Edwina P. "Eddy" Dalton.

David Blair, Beyer's aide, said his boss has discovered that "it's far easier to raise money" after being elevated to the state's second-highest office than it was as a first-time candidate.

Among those scrambling to get in good graces with Beyer, who is now considered gubernatorial timber for 1993, have been political action committees for virtually every group and cause that does business in the state -- developers, hospitals, physicians, lawyers, bankers, chiropractors, optometrists, political consultants, manufacturers, beer and soft-drink distributors and unions representing teachers, letter carriers, hotel and restaurant workers and the state AFL-CIO.

Post-election contributions to Beyer add up to $681,685, raising his total contributions to $1.7 million. But because he spent nearly $2.9 million on his campaign, he's still $1.2 million in debt, all of which is owed to his father, Donald S. Beyer Sr.

Most of Beyer's post-election money was solicited by a full-time fund-raiser he employed. But 16 automobile dealers, all of which compete with Beyer's Falls Church Volvo dealership, have contributed $16,300; $11,000 came from the Virginia Automobile Dealers Association PAC.

Among those placing bets on the winning horse after the race was run were two of the state's largest companies: Dominion Resources Inc. and CSX Corp., which contributed $30,000 and $20,350, respectively.

Dominion Resources, through its PAC, contributed $5,000 on Jan. 10 -- three days before Beyer's inauguration -- and later made three other $5,000 contributions, plus one of $10,000, making the energy company Beyer's largest contributor. (A subsidiary, Virginia Power, gave Beyer $6,450 before the election, and $11,550 to Dalton.)

Several Northern Virginia developers who backed Dalton also have belatedly jumped on the Beyer bandwagon.

In recent months, John T. "Til" Hazel Jr., whose son Jimmy was Dalton's Northern Virginia finance chairman, gave Beyer $1,000, and two of Hazel's companies, Broad Run Investments and Broad Run Limited Partnership, gave a total of $10,250. Beyer also has received $47,350 from other developers who did not contribute to his pre-election campaign.

Another Johnny-come-lately is the law firm of McGuire, Woods, Battle & Boothe, where Dalton's late husband, Republican former governor John N. Dalton, was a partner. It gave Beyer $11,500.

Democratic Gov. L. Douglas Wilder, who wound up his successful campaign with a small surplus, has added to it in the eight months since his election. Wilder's latest campaign report showed contributions of $25,115, raising his total to more than $7 million. His report showed a surplus of $140,228.

The surplus is in addition to whatever Wilder has remaining from a special inaugural fund-raising effort that may have left him with more than $500,000. Wilder declined again today to divulge how much money remains from the inauguration or what he plans to do with it. It has been widely speculated that Wilder could use the inauguration surplus to help finance a campaign for national office in 1992.

Wilder's opponent last fall, J. Marshall Coleman, has raised $221,377 since the November election, for a total of $9.2 million, including money spent to win a three-way GOP primary. Coleman still has a campaign debt of $10,183, according to his report.