Now that Chicago's Rep. Harold Washington (D-Ill.) has shown how a black can get nominated for mayor in a tough, predominantly white town, W. Wilson Goode is showing how to do it all differently.

Goode, 44, a sharecropper's son who has a cool managerial style and a degree from the Wharton Business School, is well out ahead in the polls for the May 17 Democratic mayoral primary here. A surprisingly large chunk of his support is coming from white neighborhoods, where he's polling roughly a third of the vote.

Because of Goode's success in these white wards and in the polls, his opponent, former mayor Frank L. Rizzo, is dropping his "nice guy" image.

At a news conference last night, Rizzo lashed out at Goode, calling him a "big zero" and a liar. He also threw his support in the Chicago race to Republican Bernard Epton over Washington.

" 'I'm for Epton' is absolutely right," Rizzo responded to a questioner. Explaining his objections to Washington, Rizzo said: "Here's a guy who didn't file an income-tax return for 19 years, was disbarred as a lawyer . . . . He is not fit to serve in any elected office."

In the 1960s, Washington was temporarily suspended from the bar for taking fees from clients and not performing work. In 1972 he was convicted of not filing his income tax returns for four years.

"Washington is not without sin, and if Chicago elects him mayor, they got a big fat headache," Rizzo continued. "I'd put four guys on him, and I'd make him wear boxing gloves the whole time he was mayor so he couldn't get into the till."

Goode campaign manager Steven Murphy refused to respond to Rizzo's attack.

"We're not going to let Rizzo drag us down like that," he said. "We're not going to get into racial politics. We're not going to dignify it. Chicago is irrelevant to Philadelphia."

Rizzo said he hoped that voters would not cast ballots "because of the color of someone's skin or his religion or his nationality."

Lots of political pros here say they think Rizzo has managed, in a city whose population is 61 percent white, to turn the race issue into a plus for his black opponent.

"Any other white candidate and I'm sure the race thing would hurt us," said one Goode operative. "But Rizzo brings too much baggage. He's not in a position to take advantage of it."

Rizzo seems increasingly frustrated by the black-and-white box he finds himself in. He insists that his reputation is a bum rap.

He mused the other day that he wished both he and Goode were "American Indians," so race would not be an issue. And, in a more combative vein, he has vowed not to let Goode get a "free ride" just because he is black.

But Rizzo's campaign has been flat so far. He started out more than 20 points behind in the polls, and that is where he remains. He trails Goode by 52 to 26, according to a Daily News survey earlier this month.

Unlike Chicago, where several Democratic presidential candidates endorsed the mayoral candidates in the primary and have visited the city on Washington's behalf since, national Democrats are taking a hands-off attitude toward the race here.

Rizzo's early fund-raising charge has slowed, while Goode has exceeded all his money goals.

Moreover, the "new Rizzo" who was unveiled with some fanfare at the start of the campaign--a wiser, mellower version of the candidate who once vowed to run a law-and-order administration that would "make Attila the Hun look like a faggot"--has already been scrapped, like a prime time series that never made it in the ratings.

The media adviser who cooked it up, David Sawyer of New York, is gone too, though he technically remains on the payroll as a consultant. The Rizzo ads are being shot now by Robert Goodman of Baltimore, who was brought aboard earlier this month to inject some of the old Rizzo pizazz and passion into the race.

"We are going to get a little more visceral," Goodman said. "We're going to show him as the tough guy he is, but also as a man with a lot of passion and a lot of different sides."

As Goodman sees it, the winning formula is to contrast Rizzo's strong leadership style with Goode's weak one. Their ads won't attack Goode personally, but will go after his record, from 1979 to 1982, as the city's managing director, the top appointive position in local government under Mayor William J. Green Jr., who chose not to seek reelection.

The campaign pitch will be that whether it was trash collection, police protection or economic development, the city worked better when Rizzo was in charge.

But if that's where the battle is to be waged, the turf couldn't please the Goode camp more. The Rizzo record, they say, is a sitting duck--the flunking of a lie detector test, the constant battles with Washington and Harrisburg, the charges of patronage and cronyism, the exodus of nearly 100,000 jobs from the city.

The Daily News poll shows that Rizzo starts out on the short end of any comparison of records. About 26 percent of the respondents thought he did a good job as mayor from 1971 to 1979 while 37 percent thought he did a poor one. Goode gets a 45 percent "good" rating as managing director, and only a 6 percent poor one.

During Goode's three years as managing director, he kept himself in the public eye, appearing at more than 500 community meetings, but this campaign is his first try for elective office.

In many ways he is a "second generation" black candidate for mayor.

Four years ago Charles Bowser, a black lawyer and community activist, ran against Green in the Democratic primary. In an angry campaign, pitched heavily to the black community, he surprised everyone by coming within 37,000 votes.

The lesson of that race was that blacks could register and vote just as heavily as whites, but a black-only campaign could never quite get a candidate there. Blacks make up 43 percent of the registered vote in a Democratic primary.

Goode owes his last job to that race. Green, to patch things up with Bowser after the bitter primary, pledged to appoint a black managing director.

As a candidate, Goode has none of Bowser's dynamism or passion on the campaign trail, nor does he seem to need it. His black base already activated, he has the luxury Bowser never did of prospecting for votes in the white wards.

His profile is ready-made for the task. He wears three-piece suits and dour expressions, and he would come off sounding very much like a banker were it not for a speech pattern that makes the "truth" come out as the "truff." He is a church deacon, a workaholic, a former chairman of the state Public Utility Commission--and most of all, he is non-threatening to whites.

Few believe he will wind up with a third of the white vote on May 17. The Rizzo camp talks confidently of a hidden vote in the lunchbucket white ethnic neighborhoods that doesn't share its racial attitudes with pollsters.

But pollster Pat Caddell, who has taken surveys on the issue this year in both cities, says racial attitudes are not as hardened in Philadelphia as in Chicago.

"That city is much more ready for a black mayor than Chicago is," he said.

Like many other major cities, Philadelphia has a dwinding manufacturing economy and a growing service economy, and the transformation has brought in a white professional class that tends to be liberal, anti-Rizzo, and not threatened economically by blacks.

The Goode campaign is spending a lot of its organizational energies not taking the black vote for granted, but the number it seemed to be most intrigued by is 19. That, campaign officials say, is the highest percentage of white votes a black mayoral candidate has ever gotten in a white northern city.

Democrats outnumber Republicans by more than 3 to 1 in Philadelphia, which obviously poses a problem for the Republicans, who have three candidates in their primary: former city controller and professional basketball star Tom Gola, former U.S. representative Charles F. Dougherty and stockbroker John J. Egan Jr.

The lesson of Chicago, Goode says, is that "a black can run for mayor and win a nomination and the world doesn't come to an end."

The lesson of Philadelphia, he hopes, will be that "In 1983, a person who is black can run for mayor in a majority white town and receive a major chunk of the white vote."