The National Organization for Women will sit out the 1988 presidential election unless Rep. Patricia Schroeder (D-Colo.) or another candidate acceptable to the group decides to run, NOW President Molly Yard said yesterday.

"We don't see yet presidential candidates who are going to lead this country any differently than it has been led in the last handful of years," Yard told reporters at a luncheon.

"We're not going to spend our substance, energy and time to elect someone who yet again will not pay attention to what we think is important," she said. "If we have a candidate like {Schroeder}, we will certainly be very active in presidential politics."

Schroeder, the senior woman in the House, has said she will decide next month whether to run.

NOW was instrumental in getting vice-presidential candidate Geraldine A. Ferraro on the Democratic ticket in 1984 and endorsed Walter F. Mondale for president. After the election, some officials blamed the Mondale defeat on the demands of "special interests," and Democratic National Committee Chairman Paul G. Kirk Jr. said he wanted to abolish the party's caucuses for women, blacks and others.

"Do we have to be kicked around every four years?" Yard asked.

"We were blamed for {Jimmy} Carter's loss in 1980 because we didn't play, and we were blamed {for Mondale's loss} in 1984 because we did play," added Sheri O'Dell, a NOW vice president. "The problem is dull candidates who don't excite anybody."

Yard and Eleanor Smeal, former president of the group, dismissed most of the current crop of Democratic candidates in general terms, although Yard said she voted for Jesse L. Jackson in the 1984 primary, and "he does speak about many of the issues in a way NOW members understand."

The other candidates drew criticism for their stances on abortion, the Equal Rights Amendment and other issues. For example, Yard accused Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis, a Democrat, of trying to keep Lt. Gov. Evelyn Murphy off his ticket and playing down the lieutenant governor's post when she won it.

Conservative Sen. Sam Nunn (D-Ga.), who favors a constitutional amendment letting states decide whether to outlaw abortion, received the harshest reviews although he has not decided whether to run. Yard said party officials believe that to win, they need "the good old solid South . . . . I have better ways to spend my time than to bring that back."

If it is Nunn versus conservative Rep. Jack Kemp (R-N.Y.), "there would be no choice. It would be a waste of our time," said Smeal. Nunn versus Vice President Bush? "Our people can't get very worked up," she said. "There is a point where the movement can't move."

Yard, elected president of NOW in July, said the ERA is the group's top priority. But she said NOW also is working against the Supreme Court nomination of Judge Robert H. Bork and is lobbying for pay equity, parental leave, civil rights and child care bills.