For Vice President Quayle, this is a good news-bad news election cycle.

The good news is that after nearly two years in office, Quayle is acting and being treated this fall like most vice presidents before him. He raises barrels of cash for GOP candidates, carries the president's case to partisan audiences around the nation, and helps fellow Republicans who will remember and help him later. In all of it, he gets very little national attention, as is normal for a vice president.

The bad news is that Dan Quayle is still not like most vice presidents, who have tended to rise and fall with the presidents they served. Through good times and bad for President Bush, Americans have seemed frozen in the attitudes they formed toward the vice president in the rough 1988 campaign and the early days of the Bush administration. That is, most are fairly comfortable with "Vice President Quayle." But most are quite uncomfortable with "President Quayle."

A Washington Post poll of 1,000 voters taken Oct. 17-21 found that half gave Quayle "favorable" marks and 37 percent "unfavorable" when asked to rate the job he is doing as vice president -- similar to the rating he received after a year in office. But a Wall Street Journal-NBC News Poll Oct. 19-21 of 1,000 voters found fewer than 30 percent of them had positive feelings about Quayle in general, and 69 percent said they were uncomfortable with the thought of Quayle as president.

A veteran GOP consultant who has looked at the Quayle phenomenon was asked how he thought Quayle was doing this fall towards showing he has the stuff to be president. "He is doing all he can," the operative said. "He is jumping the small hurdles. He is a better campaigner. He is less fearful of the press. He is less thin-skinned. He is making friends all around the country. He is being viewed as a participant in the councils of this administration. But that only takes him so far. Ask me how he's doing in 1992, when 100 million Americans are paying some attention. Then we'll know if he can make it."

After near-invisibility during the first crisis weeks of the Persian Gulf buildup, Quayle emerged in September to wade into the budget battle, which he predicted early could be a partisan downer for the White House. He tried to steer negotiators away from a deal he believed was no good for Republicans.

He also offered a reading on sentiments in Congress which some administration officials said was more prescient than that of the White House "experts." Over the past few weeks, Quayle was the spokesman of choice for the administration about the budget fight on several national television shows and other forums.

"The fact that no one wrote much about it or paid much attention to it shows how far he's come," said one official of Quayle's national media appearances, comparing the coverage to the days when Quayle stories focused on his gaffes.

For the most part, Quayle has spent the fall on the campaign trail, flying off for two or three days a week. "What I can do for candidates," he said, "is help raise money. I can raise the profile {of the candidate by getting him local media coverage} and I can energize the troops."

His speech is more partisan than Bush campaign speeches have been and leans a little forward of Bush. Well before the president began tapping actively into the anti-incumbent mood around the country by endorsing limits on congressional terms, as he did Friday, Quayle was playing on it heavily, strongly endorsing limits and sharply attacking the Congress as the entrenched home of Democrats.

"Do you know," Quayle asked his audiences with mock incredulity in Massachusetts and New Jersey this week, "that the chairman of the appropriations committee had seven years, seven years seniority before I was even born?"

And long before Bush, hampered by bipartisan talks in which he opened the door to tax increases, could attack Democrats as tax-raisers, it was part of the Quayle routine. "If we had a Republican Congress," he told a gathering in Boston, "we wouldn't be talking about how to raise taxes. We'd be talking about how to cut spending."

The Quayle statistics this fall are similar to Bush's in the 1982 midterm elections and to those of other vice presidents before them. He has visited 45 states since he took office, raising some $15 million for GOP candidates. To the standard diet of fund-raisers for Senate, House and gubernatorial candidates, Quayle has added a string of appearances on behalf of state party operations and even candidates for state office, to help build the GOP for redistricting battles ahead.

Before the 1988 campaign, Quayle had a reputation as a good campaigner, and his skills in sizing up an audience and meeting it are beginning to resurface. At an outdoor campaign rally last week for John F. MacGovern, a House GOP candidate in Concord, Mass., hundreds of chanting and shouting supporters showed up for the incumbent Democrat, Chet Atkins.

Without missing a beat, Quayle plunged into the opposition crowd, working along a rope line shaking hands and murmuring, "Hi, Dan Quayle, Nice to see you here. Hi, Dan Quayle, glad to see you." The astonished crowd turned mostly docile, giving the vice president a chance to make his pitch for MacGovern.

Quayle's speeches in his early months did not always fit his audiences, but now they seem tailored. For campaign events, they are partisan, personal, short, and -- a standard for Republicans -- patriotic. He wades into audiences with enthusiasm and seems addicted to unscheduled, unrehearsed stops at least once in each media market.

Aides say such stops play well on the local news in a way speeches do not, filling the papers with local folks talking about how "thrilled" they are to see the vice president. On a one-day trip this week, Quayle managed to stop at a typical New Jersey diner for a cup of coffee, a vegetable stand in Massachusetts for a cup of cider and a gas station.

Not that everything goes smoothly. At the vegetable stand, Quayle, flanked by Massachusetts GOP Senate candidate William Weld, was asked whether he thought John Silber, Weld's Democratic opponent, was presidential material. Quayle adroitly answered that it would be difficult for Silber to run for president "from the unemployment line" since he would out of a job after Weld beats him next month.

Weld said loudly, "That was a trick question and I'm glad you handled it, Mr. Vice President." Neither he nor Quayle appeared to notice the condescension implicit in his remark.

A GOP campaign official said the Vice President "is doing just fine with the candidates and party types around the country I deal with. That will help if there gets to be an issue on whether he stays on the ticket or not. People he has helped will be a little less likely to say if times are bad, get rid of him." But, said the official, "his future will be written in 1992. If he is on the ticket, he can finally get another shot to change the image. That's the only time he'll have that intense national audience. That's the only chance he's got."