The man in charge of Republican nominee Robert J. Dole's presidential transition does not use the word "if."

He has secured 100,000 square feet of office space in downtown Washington. He has lined up desks, phones and computers for 374 staffers. He has written an hour-by-hour schedule for the president-elect that takes him from the first day after his November victory to the day of his inauguration. The schedule includes dates and times for meetings in the White House with the lame duck president and his wife Hillary, presumably to discuss their moving out and the Doles moving in.

"It would be irresponsible not do this kind of work, regardless of what the polls say. Bob Dole has never suggested we pull back and not go forward," said William Timmons, a Washington lobbyist and GOP insider who helped run the transitions of Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan.

The Dole transition office, where lines are being laid this month for computers and secure telecommunications, will be up and running within three or four days of Nov. 5, Timmons asserted.

Unlike Jimmy Carter or Bill Clinton, who hatched their presidencies in Plains, Ga., and Little Rock, Ark., Timmons said Dole will base his transition in Washington, where he has lived for 35 years.

Before Dole left the Senate last summer, he said he would run for president as "a private citizen, a Kansan, just a man" whose roots are in his home town of Russell, Kan. Roots notwithstanding, Timmons said Dole will be the first president-elect in memory to run his entire transition operation out of Washington. "I just can't believe he wants to set up any kind of office in Russell, Kansas," Timmons said.

Started in early June, Timmons began filling in the blanks in the three-month interregnum that the Constitution prescribes between the election of a president and the assumption of power. He has done so steathily, working not in Dole campaign headquarters near Union Station but in his plush offices on K Street NW, where he runs Timmons & Co., a lobbying firm that includes GOP power broker and Dole adviser Tom C. Korologos.

"{Dole} wanted me not to interfere with the campaign, so I dare say there are not many in the campaign who know I am doing it," said Timmons, who has nosed around over at Dole headquarters, mostly to look at office equipment that might be purchased from the campaign.

As Timmons outlines how the transition will work, he never, ever uses the conditional tense. Nor does he countenance that tense in others. Should a questioner slip in an "if," Timmons crushes it with a "when."

Timmons's faith is strong in the face of polls and punditry that cast Dole as a long shot. Students of presidential transitions, however, argue that stable democracy demands optimism from operatives like Timmons.

"Lightning could strike. You have got to look at it as though it was a 50-50 race at this point," said Charles Jones, a University of Wisconsin professor and senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.

Increasingly elaborate and time-consuming background checks for potential cabinet members and other appointed senior officials mean that 11 weeks is not nearly enough for a fully baked transition, says Jones, who is writing a book on presidential transitions and this month will lead a Washington seminar on the subject. "You've got to be ready" well before a winner is declared on election night, he said.

Even as Dole lags behind Clinton in the polls, Jones said he cannot think of a presidential aspirant who is better prepared than Dole to execute a smooth, stable and well-planned assumption of power.

"If you want an effective transition, Dole's a great candidate," Jones said. "As distinct from someone from outside {Washington}, he carries inside his head a familiarity with both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue. He knows all the Republicans who have executive experience and how to activate them to create the kind of government he wants."

Having studied 100 years of presidential succession, from McKinley to Clinton, Jones ranks Clinton's effort in 1992 as "one of the least well-managed." The reason, he said, was because Clinton came from a relatively small state, knew relatively few Washington operators and because "Clinton leads from the outside. He brings a campaign style to government. He has a propensity to go public.' "

By contrast, Jones explained, Dole is an "in-town kind of guy, an inside leader who easily connects with the existing government."

Dole began stitching his in-town connections together last spring, shortly after he began experimenting with not wearing a blue suit and a tie and after he said his campaign would "leave Washington behind to look to America." The then-majority leader was in his Capitol Hill office when he suggested to Timmons that it was not too soon to begin thinking transition.

Timmons, who has known Dole for 34 years and has been a quietly powerful wielder of influence in the campaigns of every Republican president from Nixon to Bush, needed no detailed marching orders. As Jones pointed out, "Timmons is the original behind-the-scenes guy" and the perfect Washington insider for the job.

After nearly four months, Timmons has assembled a pre-transition team of 10 members, who meet weekly. Citing security concerns, he will not give out the address of the federally leased office space where transition offices are to be set up. Under a 1963 law, Congress provides federal money -- $3.9 million this year -- to "promote the orderly transfer of the executive power" between presidents. None of the money, though, can be spent until the day after the election.

Reading from three thick ring-binder notebooks, Timmons said the money will help pay for 15 separate offices within the transition structure. Those offices, he said, are organized around "what I call the four P's -- personal support, policy, people and promotion. . . . There is so much detail."

Timmons said he has had "three or four" meetings with Dole, and wants to snare the candidate for a major meeting after Wednesday's debate to discuss appointments of a chief of staff for the transition, as well as several other key jobs. "Right now, I feel guilty taking up too much of his time," Timmons said.

Asked if motivation, given the polls, is an impediment to sound transition planning, Timmons replied with a robust "No!"

"I think he is going to be elected president." Timmons said. "There is nothing I can do about it anyway." CAPTION: William Timmons says Republican nominee Robert J. Dole "has never suggested we pull back and not go forward."