Imitation may be the sincerest form of vice presidency - and Dan Quayle is modeling his performance on the way George Bush handled the job.

That bodes well for his job appraisals by the boss."He knows what it takes to be an effective vice president," the incoming No. 2 man said of Bush. "He was one."

The vice president-elect said much of his work will be low-visibility, one-on-one advice and assistance to the president. Quayle said he won't be speaking up in forums like Cabinet meetings but, rather, will offer his ideas in even more private settings.

He is to meet daily with the president during the new administration. There are to be private luncheons each Thursday, like those Reagan held with Bush. The president-elect said he will treat Quayle as he was treated during eight years as vice president. "His vice presidency will be like mine," Bush said.

Quayle said in an interview with The Associated Press that Bush already has consulted him on Cabinet appointments and has sought his advice on a variety of issues. He won't describe the subjects, let alone the advice.

"That's one of the reasons I'll be an effective vice president," he said. "I'm just not going to take these things public." Bush stuck with that rule even when mocked for it during the campaign.

Vice presidents do not get starring roles. They are understudies. That assignment poses a special problem for Quayle. After a campaign of controversy and sometimes ridicule, he has an image to repair. He has said he intends to make life more difficult for the late-night television comics who have been thriving on Quayle jokes.

The vice presidency itself often has been a joking matter. In the musical comedy "Of Thee I Sing," Alexander Throttlebottom got the job by losing a drawing and had to join a tour group to get into the White House. Vice President Alben Barkley told of the two boys who vanished - one went to sea and the other became vice president.

So Quayle has a tall order to fill. A second-term Indiana senator who vaulted to the Republican ticket at age 41, with no national credentials, he has to demonstrate his ability and his leadership qualifications, all in a supporting role with a relatively low profile.

"The high visibility, the high profile is by the president, not the vice president," Quayle said. "But the American people will judge me on how I perform." He said there will be public assignments, tasks that will put his abilities out front so that the people can determine what kind of job he's doing.

The most telling judgment will come from one man, the 41st president of the United States. "I will be a broad-ranging adviser to the president," Quayle said, working on "the model that was established by George Bush."

He said much of what Bush did for Reagan was known only to them. He said he intends to work the same way and to judge his performance by its usefulness to the president.

"If he continues to have confidence in you, to rely on you for things of importance, then you are an effective vice president," Quayle said.

He said his specific assignments will evolve as events dictate and will include foreign and domestic travel, political missions, work with Congress and more.