SACRAMENTO, CALIF. -- Nothing can be more frustrating for political activists than to have a compelling issue and a hot campaign and to be unable to put the two together. So pity both sides of the abortion debate as they glumly contemplate the single most important campaign of the year -- the race for governor of California.

In the state capital last week, delegates to the annual convention of the nation's largest antiabortion organization could not hide their distaste for both the Democratic nominee, former San Francisco mayor Dianne Feinstein, and her Republican opponent, Sen. Pete Wilson, both of whom support abortion rights.

"I'm just going to vote for Marian Bergeson {the antiabortion Republican candidate for lieutenant governor} and let the Lord deal with what happens," said Karen Lamb, a National Right to Life Committee Inc. delegate who works as a correctional officer in Fresno.

The choice does not appear that much easier to the state's abortion-rights leaders, who appreciate having both candidates on their side but wonder what ideological adjustments a hard campaign may bring. Suspicion falls heavier on Wilson because of the national Republican Party's opposition to abortion and running mate Bergeson's avowed antiabortion stand.

"That is already a threat to his candidacy and his credibility," said Robin Schneider, executive director of California Abortion Rights Action League South. Schneider said her group will expect from Wilson a public commitment to its entire agenda, including public funding of abortions for poor women, and could still back Feinstein if Wilson accepts even a lukewarm National Right to Life endorsement.

Wilson spokesman Bill Livingstone said the GOP candidate's abortion-rights stand is clear and that public funding of abortions is already protected by the state constitution, so the issue should have little bearing.

Feinstein disagrees. The Democratic candidate has often suggested that as a woman she would be a more trustworthy advocate for abortion rights than any male candidate. In an interview, Feinstein spokeswoman Dee Dee Myers alleged Wilson had soft spots. "What about his undying support for {U.S. Supreme Court nominees and abortion opponents} Robert Bork and Antonin Scalia?" she said.

Antiabortion advocates here, many with conservative religious views on other issues, suggest they would not even want to share an elevator with Feinstein. "She's for both gays and abortion," said Philip Sevilla of Concord. But Wilson appears to inspire almost as much enmity for rejecting his party's antiabortion platform.

"We're in trouble in California," one delegate said plaintively at a workshop on GOP abortion-rights sentiment. "What can we do?"

Bergeson, a state senator from populous and conservative Orange County, was welcomed warmly at the National Right to Life convention last week and was cheered for her primary victory over a well-funded abortion-rights candidate and for her response to critics of her antiabortion stand: "Read my lipstick: When it comes to protecting innocent life, you can't change your mind."

She stood in the hotel corridor greeting delegates with quiet, grandmotherly charm. When asked about the governor's race, she quickly advanced the one argument that might coax her antiabortion admirers to bite their tongues and vote for Wilson. "It's absolutely critical in California that we have a Republican governor," she said. "We must have the leverage to influence the redistricting process after the 1990 census."

Bonnie Swedberg, a delegate from Pollock Pines, Calif., said she would probably succumb to a similar argument from her husband. "He's a Republican, and he's worried about reapportionment," she said.

But Janet Carroll, associate western director of National Right to Life, argued that the advantages of having a governor who could veto Democratic redistricting plans would be wiped out by the difficulties Wilson's abortion stand would create for antiabortion lobbyists in Sacramento.

"I have a great concern about what the dynamics would be with a pro-abortion Republican as governor," she said. The prospect of a victorious Wilson becoming a contender for the national ticket also displeases her. "The pro-life movement does not need Pete Wilson in the presidency or the vice presidency," she said.