A disappointed but forward-looking bloc of Gary Hart supporters, fanning out from San Francisco to their home states after the Democratic National Convention , say they will support the Mondale-Ferraro ticket - some solely because the ticket includes a woman, others because the only other choice is Ronald Reagan.
But the Hart delegates view themselves as more than the straggling remnants of a defeated campaign. Mounting what they consider a very credible challenge to the ''old guard'' of the Democratic Party, Hart supporters cast 1,200.5 votes for their candidate compared with Walter Mondale's 2,191 on the first (and only) ballot.
This, they say, is the basis for a new political coalition.
Nearly every Hart delegate interviewed by the Monitor on the jammed convention floor here pointed to the party platform, a document peppered with Hart's philosophy on economic, military, and social issues. They see it as proof positive that their leader has had a substantial impact on the party.
Further, they believe Senator Hart has brought the party a new philosophical base - the kind so often referred to as appealing to young, urban professionals.
''One of the great benefits (of the Hart candidacy) was bringing so many new people into the campaign. . . . We institutionalized them, and that's brought a generational shift in the party,'' explains John Emerson, a Los Angeles lawyer who was chairman of Hart's California campaign.
Nancy Maciag, a Hart delegate from Lansing, Mich., said: ''Coalitions have now been formed in our state among people who have things in common and would not ordinarily be attracted to party politics. So if Hart runs again in '88 the coalition will be in place.''
Michigan state Sen. George Sallide says young Hart supporters have jumped into the political arena just since the campaign for the presidential nomination began. Some have filed to run for offices, including state legislator, county commissioner, and even district attorney.
Hart delegates, the largest number of them well-coifed, young, middle-class Americans, constantly talk of the future. It is the key to the contrast they make between their politics and those of Mr. Mondale, whom they perceive as an old-guard Democrat beholden to special interests and a traditional political agenda that has failed to solve the problems of the nation.
They identify Mondale with old-fashioned politics revolving around smokestack industries, union interests, and big government spending.
Hart is paired with fiscal conservatism and high-technology solutions to economic problems.
''Walter Mondale has voted right on all the issues in the last 20 years, but what are the issues of the next 20 years?'' asks Jim Muirhead, a New Hampshire lawyer who is on the credentials committee of the Democratic National Committee.
New Hampshire - which holds the nation's first presidential primary - gave Hart an initial foothold in the presidential race.
Mr. Muirhead says it is no coincidence that Hart was embraced by a region experiencing an economic upturn. ''New England has had to leave traditional industry and move into electronics before the Midwest. ... We had our revolution 10 years ago. When Hart came in (with his progressive thought) we already understood that message.
''It's places like Pennsylvania that haven't. And they hang on to the (thought): 'I hope they reopen the old steel mills.' Gary Hart says look to Japan or Korea for new ways,'' Muirhead says.
After their candidate conceded the nomination to Mondale Wednesday night and pledged his support to the former vice-president, Hart delegates interviewed nearly unanimously said they would support Mondale.
Gloria Allred, a feminist civil rights lawyer from Los Angeles, said, ''Hart supporters won't be enthusiastic, but I think the choice of Geraldine Ferraro has given him (Mondale) the chance he didn't have before.''
Other Hart supporters said the difference between their man and Mondale is less than that between Mondale and Reagan. And that makes the choice for Mondale an easy one, they say. Colorado Gov. Richard Lamm agrees: ''Democrats will support (the Mondale-Ferraro ticket). There's no ideological breach in the party. ... There's not a wide gap of difference.''
There is talk among his delegates of supporting Hart for a second presidential bid in 1988. That, though, would depend on his ability to win reelection to the Senate in 1986.