The idea was to have a presidential candidates' forum, not unlike those New York Gov. Cuomo holds for Democratic presidential candidates, except that California Gov. George Deukmejian (R) has been turned down by the 1988 Republican presidential candidates.

Deukmejian's proposed forum was postponed indefinitely after Vice President Bush declined an invitation to appear in early December. If Bush were not going to show, Sen. Robert J. Dole (Kan.) said he would not, and so it went.

"We were disappointed and surprised that the vice president wouldn't come," said Brian Lungren, executive director of Deukmejian's Citizens for Common Sense, which would have sponsored the event. "It seems just more and more often that the presidential candidates come to California for a quickie fund-raising event and leave."

Deukmejian, who renominated the vice president at the 1984 Republican convention, thought he could count on Bush to appear, sources said. But Lungren insisted that this was not "a setback" for the chances of Deukmejian -- or California -- to play an influential role in presidential politics.

Lungren said the event could be held next year if the race is not wrapped up after the "Super Tuesday" primaries on March 8. The California primary is June 7. "If they want to come to our state to discuss issues -- besides raising money -- we'd be happy to accommodate them," Lungren said.