Rep. Richard Nolan (D-Minn.) has contacted key Minnesota Democrats about supporting Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) for president instead of Jimmy Carter and fellow Minnesotan Walter Mondale for vice president in 1980.

Among the Democrats Nolan has contacted are Secretary of State Joan Growe, State Treasurer James Lord, Minnesota AFL-CIO President David Roe and Minnesota Farm Union President Cy Carpenter.

Growe and Lord are known to be closet Kennedy supporters but they are reluctant to make a public break now with Carter because of their loyalties to Mondale.

However, Growe and Lord apparently begged off when state party chairman Rick Scott contacted them to serve on a Carter-Mondale campaign committee which is intended to blunt Nolan.

"I said I was wondering if they [Growe and Lord] were going to be a part of it and they said they didn't know," said Scott.

Further, Roe declined to give Carter and Mondale an outright endorsement when he talked to Nolan, which is unusual because Roe has been a staunch Mondale ally.

It is hard to tell where Nolan's effort will lead but Mondale is taking him seriously.

On Tuesday Mondale dispatched Dick Moe, his top aide, to Capitol Hill to seek a reconciliation with Nolan. Moe and Nolan met about 30 minutes.

"He [Moe] said the vice president wanted to talk to me about this," said Nolan. "I told him I was seriously considering supporting Kennedy, but that I would contact the vice president."

Nolan said his meeting with Moe was "very friendly and there were no threats or promises made."

Moe said, "I know the vice president will be deeply hurt when he learns of this. He will be especially hurt that Rick made no effort to talk to Mondale about it.This is particularly difficult because Mondale gave him his first political job.

"I tried to make a case of rus and it was a candid discussion, but he's a responsible human being who can make up his own mind," Moe said.

Growe and Lord have been cautious in their public statements about Kennedy and publicly say they are undecided. However, confidants say they strongly favor Kennedy but are troubled by Mondale's presence on the Carter ticket.

"I don't know what I am going to do yet about the presidential campaign in 1980... like a lot of people I'm dissatisfied with the Carter presidency but I haven't made a decision about what I plan to do," said Growe.

Said Lord: "The thing that's holding me back is my strong support of Vice President Mondale. Personally I'd like to support Mondale for president."

Nolan's opposition to the Carter administration has been no secret. Nolan's central Minnesota district, which is made up of rich farmland, has opposed Carter agricultural policies.

"I just feel more comfortable with Kennedy's positions on these issues and I'm thinking seriously about doing something for him in Minnesota."

A confident of Nolan said: "My clearest impression is that Rick is moving and organizing and he's not asking should he do it, but how to do it."