Her crowds are bigger and more enthusiastic. Her speeches are tougher and more passionate. Her press entourage is larger and, of late, more laudatory than his.

In almost every measure by which politics is usually judged, Democratic vice-presidential nominee Geraldine A. Ferraro is running away from Vice President Bush on the campaign trail this fall.

But when voters are asked to judge Bush and Rep. Ferraro (D-N.Y.) on a favorable/unfavorable scale or as potential presidents, Bush is the runaway winner.

Bush had a 59-to-32 percent favorable rating in the latest Washington Post-ABC News Poll, slightly ahead of President Reagan and far better than Ferraro's 50-to-39 percent score. In a direct comparison as potential presidents, Bush beats her, 61 to 33 percent.

When both were asked to explain this paradox during campaign swings last week, their answers were revealing. Bush was characteristically self-deprecatory; Ferraro, feisty and assertive.

"It's tied to the overall approval of the administration," Bush said. "It's partly my being vice president of the United States and partly being part of the record we have made. People probably are more aware of my own background than they were three or four years ago, and, hopefully, they recognize good credentials as well as being part of a good record."

Meanwhile, Ferraro answered: "It doesn't surprise me a bit. The man has been vice president for four years. He's known. The unknown is Geraldine Ferraro. After I've been in the White House for four years, I expect to get not only the kind of ratings he has but much better ratings."

Traveling a similar route through the Great Lakes and East Coast states last week, for two days with Ferraro and two days with Bush, an uninformed visitor would have lost a bet on which candidate was part of the leading ticket.

On Ferraro's first day out, she drew an enthusiastic crowd of 6,000 to a noontime rally in Democratic downtown Baltimore. At the same hour in Republican Springfield, Ill., two days later, Bush had a crowd one-tenth that size on the steps of the state capitol.

Last Monday night in mid-town Manhattan, an overflow crowd of students and feminists all but leveled Hunter College's auditorium cheering Ferraro. On Wednesday night in Indianapolis, Bush found the audience at the Republican state committee dinner as tough to rouse as the steak was to cut.

Their respective visits to the "Rust Belt" were also tilted in Ferraro's favor. She drew fervent cheers at a street rally in hard-hit Youngstown, Ohio, while Bush got a polite reception -- and not much more -- from General Electric Co. locomotive workers in Erie, Pa.

The contrast is not lost on Bush or his entourage. Ferraro "sees more people in a day than we do in a week," Bush's press secretary, Peter Teeley, remarked.

Bush asked a reporter who had just come from the Ferraro campaign, "What do you think those crowds of hers mean?"

So far as the polls show at this point, the answer is: not very much. The Republican ticket rides high. GOP surveys, Teeley said, show that Ferraro's negatives "are still rising," although the furor over her family finances and her controversy with the Roman Catholic hierarchy on her abortion views seem to have abated.

One equalizer for Bush is his thorough exploitation of the local news media. His cheerleading speeches in Indianapolis and Erie, though hardly news-making in national terms, dominated the front pages of local newspapers. At every stop, however brief, Bush runs through a series of nearly identical five-minute interviews with reporters from area television stations.

Ferraro often does the same, but the political impact does not seem as great. Many of her questions, aides say, focus on the personal triumphs and tribulations she has experienced as the first female vice-presidential candidate on a major-party ticket. Bush gets policy questions that let him expound pieces of the administration line that often turn up almost unedited as five-minute unpaid commercials leading local news shows.

"I don't make flamboyant statements to attract media attention in Washington," Bush said, "but it's news in these communities that the vice president came to town, and they report what I said in my speech and in my interviews. We get fantastic coverage, through these one-on-ones TV interviews , so I'm getting the message out, keeping the focus on the top of the ticket and the Reagan administration record, as I want to do."

Bush and Ferraro bring up Reagan's name in their speeches far more often than they do Mondale's, and neither says a word about the other unless asked.

Ferraro's role these days is the traditional one for No. 2: carrying the attack to the opposition, often in personal terms.

"Don't tell us, Mr. Reagan, you supported John F. Kennedy, because you didn't," she said in her speeches last week, sounding like the schoolteacher she once was. "Don't tell us you have have cleaned up the environment, because you haven't. Don't tell us you've expanded opportunity, because you haven't. And don't tell us, Mr. President, your policies are fair, because they're not."

Ferraro said in an interview that she had no compunctions about her attacking role, even though it was not one she had played in her congressional campaigns.

"I feel very strongly about this man's policies," she said, "and I feel I've got to bring the truth about his policies to the American people, or they will continue to vote for him."

In response to a question, Bush told a television interviewer in Indianapolis that he was "very disappointed in Miss Ferraro getting her marching orders" from Mondale to carry out what he called a "very, very negative attack" on Reagan. "They're trying to tear down a strong president," he said.

Bush touches lightly -- if at all -- on Mondale, saying, "I feel sorry for Fritz" having to "complain how bad things are." In Springfield, he offered his predecessor in the vice presidency some tongue-in-cheek advice: "Come on, Fritz, lighten up. America's on the move."

As for himself, Bush said, "It's wonderful to have an optimistic message, instead of tearing down other people."

Each of the presidential camps generally praises the labors of its vice-presidential candidate. But there have been some expressions of dissatisfaction.

Some of the president's political advisers say they fail to understand why Bush got in public battles with right-wing activists during the Republican National Convention, why he spent several days untangling his views about abortion and why, more recently, he got involved in protracted arguments with reporters before moving to make public his recent income-tax data.

On the Mondale side, there clearly were second thoughts last summer, when Ferraro and her husband were mired in explaining their business affairs and income-tax returns. Mondale maintained such a long silence during her ordeal that some thought -- incorrectly, he insists -- that he was ready to drop her if the controversy got too hot.

But now, Bush and Ferraro insist that they are "comfortable" in their assignments and in their relationships with their chiefs. Both also say they are looking forward to their debate on Oct. 11.

Normally, televised debates are thought to benefit the candidate who is less known or has fewer credentials. That candidate gains a chance to match the favorite in a major forum. With polls showing widespread doubts that Ferraro is Bush's equal as a potential president, the debate might be the most important moment of her political life.

But she insists that "the stakes are much higher for George Bush than they are for me . . . . Obviously, he's concerned that I might have some effect on his future in 1988."

"She may be right," Bush said, when the remark was relayed to him. "A lot of the advice I got was, 'Don't debate. You can't win. If you come on strong, they'll think you're bullying. If you don't, they'll think you're weak.' "

Bush said he recognized that when Mondale selected Ferraro, a debate between vice-presidential contenders became almost inevitable because of "the quantum leap" in interest in the No. 2 spot caused by the selection of a woman.

The clear loser in his celebrated debate with Reagan in Nashua, N.H., during the 1980 Republican presidential primaries, Bush said his attitude toward the match with Ferraro is to "be yourself. Don't be something you're not. I've never been a gut fighter. I was taught to be polite, growing up. I can't change that."

But Bush indicated that he is aware that, for all his efforts at self-effacement, Ferraro has made him a visible factor in this campaign.

"People might be thinking," he said, " . . . what are the qualifications and credentials of the two people; what would it be like if either one of them, God forbid, had to take over and deal with the Soviets?"