In the article "Winning Hart's Minds" {Outlook, Aug. 9}, Beth Smith errs in thinking with her "hart" instead of her mind when attempting to categorize the politics of us so-called baby boomers. We are not a homogeneous group with common political beliefs and a shared philosophy. We are as diverse as the American population of which we are part. Any candidate who tries to treat us as a solid, unified voting bloc will miss his mark.

The candidates should probably not use Gary Hart's campaign ideas as a blueprint for success. His support in 1984 was more of a protest vote against Walter Mondale than a positive vote for Gary Hart. Mr. Hart became a front-runner in the current campaign chiefly by default. Most other prospective candidates simply lacked his exposure and name recognition carried over from 1984. In 1988 a successful candidate must have a demonstrated record as a problem solver with sound judgment and unquestioned integrity, not a reputation as a distant, apparently arrogant "idea man."

The ideas of Mr. Hart's that Beth Smith cites are neither intellectually valid nor politically realistic. We need an effective defense, yes, but also an efficient one: nothing fancy, just a B-1 that flies, an infantry fighting vehicle that does not double as a submarine, missiles that don't miss and a few mine sweepers we can find when we need them.

As to "setting aside narrow individual agendas," Mr. Hart himself showed how difficult that is to do when he betrayed his own campaign for selfish personal gratification. The "sacrifice for some higher ideal" school of government simply is not politically palatable today. With families to raise, extra jobs to hold down, inflated college tuition costs to underwrite and just trying to make it in life, the electorate wants government to support its agendas -- not vice versa.

As to a candidate's needing to come from the baby-boomer generation to warrant its support, this peer-group factor cuts both ways. It is like the heart transplant patient looking up to discover that the surgeon is an old college roommate with an unsteady hand. Baby boomers will not blindly vote for someone of their generation. Again, an experienced, proven problem solver stands the best chance of being elected by and successfully governing all Americans.

KARL D. SAKAS

Springfield