Try as he might, Dan Quayle found that 100 days wasn't enough time to completely escape ridicule.

Nonetheless, the vice president has in his first 100 days in office begun major rehabilitation on his image and today is a much more secure man than the one who fell before the nation with a dull thud last year.On television talk shows and in barrooms, the jokes about Quayle still persist, although they appear to be less frequent and may be losing some of the sting that they carried during the brutal 1988 campaign.

Part of the reason can be traced to Quayle's ambitious efforts to re-establish his confidence and rebuild his image, both of which were shattered as a result of the relentless pounding he took during the 1988 presidential campaign.

By most standards for vice presidents, Quayle's initial experience as the nation's second-highest official can be regarded as a moderate success, although most experts and analysts quickly stress that it is far too early to tell if he can make a full recovery.

On the positive side for Quayle, he caused little controversy on his own since taking office, appeared to carry out President Bush's wishes and reportedly has had no qualms about expressing his views in private administration meetings, although faithfully pushing the president's stance once it was decided. Conservatives also give high marks to his staff.

But unlike most incoming vice presidents, Quayle also had to perform major repair work on himself and try to somehow convince the American public that he was prepared to assume the presidency if the need should arise.

For Quayle, the barbs during the campaign were so intense that he crossed the line from being a subject of humor to an object of ridicule - an area from which few politicians can completely free themselves.

At least to some degree, his low starting point may have helped him in his first 100 days. "He had nowhere to go but up," noted Stephen Hess of the Brookings Institution. "He looks better because we see him less."

But, that may be only a short-term blessing. As time wears on, Quayle knows that if he is to be taken seriously, he will have to take actions that do more than simply prove he is not incompetent.

"As damaged as he was coming in, I don't think you can expect any more than him trying to negate some of the damage that was done," noted Phil Truluck of the conservative Heritage Foundation. "But if it stays like this for the next three years, people will be wondering whether he's going to be on the (1992) ticket."

The vice president and his staff realize the problem and say they understand it will take a long time to completely repair the damage done in 1988. But they believe they are off to a good start.

Generally, Quayle received positive reviews in his first 100 days, starting with a well-received February trip to Venezuela and El Salvador where he appeared forceful and, for the first time, capable of representing the United States. Currently, he is engaged in a Pacific tour he hopes will build on that foundation.

In recent weeks, he has appeared increasingly at ease in public forums and has begun to carve out a niche as an adviser for the president. But to reach even that point, Quayle had to travel a long road.

In his first weeks in office, it was clear he was haunted by memories of the campaign and tremendously afraid of making a mistake that would set off a new spate of stories about his inexperience.

In several sessions with reporters he refused to admit television cameras. Even at news conferences when he handled himself well, his hands were seen to be trembling.

But, after a few moderately successful appearances, Quayle began to regain his footing and has recently appeared more sure of himself. He has even experimented with poking fun at himself as a way to win over his listeners, although that approach has played to mixed results.

Nonetheless, the jokes, although less biting, still continue, making it clear that Quayle has a long way to go.

"If he is breathing easier, he is mistaken," noted Norman Ornstein, a political analyst at the American Enterprise Institute, who contends that the best thing Quayle could do would be to drop from the public eye and work in the next few months to build relationships with Washington opinion makers.

Part of the reason for Quayle's new confidence, they contend, is that Bush did not isolate him after the campaign, holding weekly lunches with him, as Ronald Reagan did with Bush, and placing him in charge of the Space Council.