Marine Lt. Col. Oliver L. North's name has become the hot new fund-raising ticket. The National Conservative Political Action Committee (NCPAC) reports its fund-raising response has improved 200 percent with a letter that refers to North 11 times in 14 paragraphs. The Republican National Committee (RNC), whose fund-raising this year is off about 7 percent to 8 percent -- or $3 million -- has taken a cue from NCPAC.

The RNC just sent out a mailing, which a spokesman characterized as "large," invoking North's name and his contra cause.

"For the way he eloquently called for continued aid to the contras and a forthright stand against the spread of communism," the RNC letter states, "you and I and every American owe Lt. Col. Oliver North a debt of thanks."

Asked Thursday about North, RNC Chairman Frank J. Fahrenkopf Jr. raved about North's impact. He said the lieutenant colonel boosted interest in the contra cause and knowledge of the issue.

Before North's testimony to the Iran-contra committees, Fahrenkopf noted, GOP polls showed that many people didn't know "a Sandinista from a contra." The contra-aid issue is now a dead heat in White House polls -- it had never before scored better than 30 percent support.

Fahrenkopf went on to call North an "articulate spokesman" and said North would be "a strong candidate" if he ran for office. But when a reporter asked whether he wants North on the GOP ticket next year, Fahrenkopf applied the brakes. "No, I don't want to see him on the ticket," the chairman responded.