Call it "Ted's Excellent Endorsement Adventure."

Aides to Vice President Gore had speculated of late that an official endorsement was in the offing from Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, liberal Democratic lion of Massachusetts--a nod that would afford Gore a welcome boost in the Northeast, particularly in the all-important leadoff primary state of New Hampshire.

But Kennedy appears to be moving at a somewhat sedate pace. The senator told Boston Globe editors and reporters Thursday he might not offer any endorsements in the Democratic primary, and, if he does, he could still pick former New Jersey senator Bill Bradley, whom Kennedy called a "serious candidate" during the Globe session.

Kennedy, who came in second with 37 percent of the vote in New Hampshire in his unsuccessful bid for the Democratic nomination in 1980, said he had "no current plans" to issue an endorsement and noted that Bradley has "sort of captured some of the imagination of the public" during his insurgent campaign, adding: "If I'm going to endorse, of course I'm going to consider both candidates."

As if that wasn't ambivalent enough, Kennedy called a Globe editor back after the meeting to explain that, with the exceptions of the candidacies of Massachusetts natives Michael Dukakis in 1988 and Paul Tsongas in 1992, he had never issued an endorsement before the Democratic convention.

One Democratic source said Friday that President Clinton called Kennedy within the past two weeks to urge him to endorse Gore, a conversation that apparently failed to spur the senator to immediate action.

So, is Kennedy backpedaling from a planned Gore endorsement or not? Aides to the senator weren't talking yesterday, choosing to let Kennedy's remarks to the Globe stand for themselves: He is undecided and will remain so at least through the holidays.

GOP Sets Convention Dates

It's official. The Republicans will hold their nominating convention July 31-Aug. 3 in Philadelphia next summer. The Republican National Committee settled on the City of Brotherly Love--in the vital swing state of Pennsylvania--months ago but had not come up with firm dates until yesterday.

As previously decided, the Democrats will meet Aug. 14-17 in Los Angeles. The Reform Party is scheduled to pick its nominee Aug. 10-13 in Long Beach, Calif., but backers of Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura, the party's highest-ranking elected official, are still fighting to get the convention moved to his home state.

Staff writer Dan Balz contributed to this report.