George Bush isn't likely to forget that night in July 1980, when his hopes of being the Republican vice presidential nominee were dashed and then suddenly restored. It was a night certain to have a profound impact on how Bush goes about filling the No. 2 spot on the 1988 GOP ticket.

Michael Dukakis was only an observer of the long process that led Walter F. Mondale to the historic decision to fill out the 1984 Democratic ticket with a woman. But the impression that process created and the impact of disclosures about the dealings of Geraldine Ferraro's husband are equally certain to affect how Dukakis chooses a running mate.The selection of a running mate is often described as the most important decision a presidential nominee makes.

Thirteen vice presidents eventually moved to the top office - eight of them upon the death of the president. Four others were later elected president, though only one, Martin Van Buren, was elected while serving as vice president. One vice president, Gerald R. Ford, gained the presidency when the incumbent, Richard M. Nixon, was forced to resign.

The No. 2 spot on the ticket historically has gone to someone chosen at the last possible moment for reasons based far more on politics than qualifications.

A new book, "Robert Kennedy, His Own Words," quotes Robert F. Kennedy as saying that when his brother offered the vice presidential nomination to Johnson "he never dreamt there was a chance in the world he would accept it."

After Johnson accepted the offer, Robert Kennedy quoted his brother as asking, "Now what do we do?"

The brothers tried to convince Johnson that putting him on the ticket would provoke a liberal revolt on the convention floor. But Johnson said he was willing to risk such a fight. As it turned out, Johnson's presence on the tickethelped Kennedy carry the South.

Harry Truman was little known outside his home state of Missouri when he was tapped by Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1944.

Roosevelt cared little about the vice presidential nominee as he prepared to run for a fourth term although he decided well in advance of the Democratic convention to dump Henry A. Wallace, who had served four years as vice president. Southerners opposed Wallace and he was not well-liked in the Senate.

In his memoirs, Truman recalled that when he arrived in Chicago for the convention he brushed aside suggestions he seek the vice presidency.

But Truman's old friend from Missouri, Robert Hannegan, was Democratic Party chairman, and he was lobbying to get the senator on the ticket.

Then came a telephone call from Roosevelt. Hannegan held the phone away from his ear and Truman could hear the president say, "Bob, have you got that fellow lined up yet?"

"No, he's the contrariest Missouri mule I've ever dealt with," replied Hannegan.

"Well you tell him if he wants to break up the Democratic Party in the middle of a war, that's his responsibility," said Roosevelt, who then hung up.

"I'll have to say yes," Truman told Hannegan.

Ford was the first vice president to attain that office under the more deliberative process of the 25th Amendment. In 1976, Jimmy Carter settled on Minnesota Sen. Mondale after a process in which prospective choices trooped to Plains, Ga., to be interviewed by Carter.

Eight years later, Mondale used a similar process. The people who traveled to North Oaks, Minn., included three women, a black, a Hispanic, and a white Southern senator.

When Ferraro, a congresswoman from New York, was selected, feminists were ecstatic. But the benefits faded when the following weeks brought headlines with accounts of her husband's business dealings.

Bush was caught in one of the strangest sequences ever at a nominating convention. The scene was Joe Louis Arena in Detroit on the night of July 16. For days Republicans had talked of a "dream ticket" made up of Reagan and Ford. The former president would technically be vice president but would actually assume far greater responsibilities, becoming in effect a co-president.

Bush was waiting to deliver a unity speech before the balloting to nominate Reagan when "a backstage worker came by, patted me on the back, and said, `I'm sorry, Mr. Bush, really sorry. I was pulling for you.'

"`Sorry about what?' I asked, as we shook hands.

"`You mean you haven't heard? It's all over. Reagan's picked Ford as his running mate."'

Bush was described as furious as he left the hall, angry that the Reagan people had not told him of the decision to choose someone else.

But the Ford option was looking less attractive. During the campaign, Ford would be addressed as "Mr. President," while Reagan would be referred to as "governor."

Then Ford appeared on television being interviewed by Walter Cronkite. He said that he would not go to Washington as "a figurehead vice president."

Reagan was stunned to see the former president talking on national television about their private discussions. A call went out to Bush.