AS a result of Gov. Michael Dukakis's decision back in January not to seek reelection, Massachusetts political skies seem to be full of trial balloons. So far no one has formally declared; the parade of ``I am running'' announcements for the 1990 governor's race is unlikely to begin before summer.
But two top Democrats, Lt. Gov. Evelyn Murphy and former Attorney General Francis Bellotti, are certainly doing nothing to discourage speculation about their gubernatorial aspirations.
Boston Mayor Raymond Flynn could also be in the running, even though just a few weeks ago he flatly said he would not seek the governorship.
But with the election still more than 18 months away and Boston likely to receive substantially less state aid than was counted on, Mayor Flynn hinted recently that he just might change his mind and run.
Although Boston's financial considerations may have triggered Flynn's thoughts of a turnaround, they may also have been prompted by the mid-March decision of US Rep. Joseph Kennedy II to end speculation and declare that he would not be a candidate.
Were the second-term congressman and nephew of US Sen. Edward Kennedy to run, it is questionable how many Democrats, beyond Miss Murphy and possibly Mr. Bellotti, he would compete against him.
Former Democratic Rep. James Shannon had also been prominently mentioned as a gubernatorial prospect. But in January he left little doubt that he preferred staying where he is, as the state's attorney general.
Boston University president John Silber, still another Democrat who had been weighing a campaign for governor, perhaps even as a Republican, made it clear March 20 that he now has no such intentions and will hold on to his academic reins.
Dr. Silber, a political conservative, had been courted by state GOP chairman Raymond Shamie as a possible candidate for governor or for the US Senate seat now occupied by John Kerry, a liberal Democrat.
To run as a Republican, the BU president would have had to switch his party affiliation by early June, a year before the candidacy filing deadline.
Massachusetts Republicans, considerably embarrassed by their problems in finding a gubernatorial contender three years ago - industrialist George Kariotis finally became the nominee - now seem unlikely to face a similar predicament.
Although no Republican has yet stepped forward, the party has a flock of possible contenders for the chief executive's chair, which has been occupied by a Democrat for the past 15 years.
Andrew Card, deputy White House chief of staff under President Bush, has been weighing a try for governor and says he will decide by summer. He is a former member of the state House of Representatives, where he earned a reputation as a political-corruption fighter.
William Weld, a former US district attorney for Massachusetts who went on to become assistant attorney general for criminal affairs in the Reagan administration, also is doing nothing to discourage talk about his possible candidacy.
Some members of the Bay State GOP were rankled by Mr. Weld's resignation from the Justice Department post in a dispute over whether then-US Attorney General Edwin Meese should step down in the wake of controversy surrounding certain of his activities.
Another Massachusetts Republican increasingly visible and believed to have gubernatorial leanings is Michael DeLand, the regional director of the US Environmental Protection Agency.
Several other potential GOP candidates include Steven Pierce, the party's floor leader in the state House of Representatives; former US Rep. Paul Cronin; and Joe Malone, the party's candidate for the US Senate against Senator Kennedy last fall.