NEW YORK (AP) _ Newspaper publishers gave Gary Hart generally high marks Tuesday for his rebuttal to reports that he spent a night with a Miami woman, but most agreed that questions will persist.

''I thought he made the speech he had to make,'' said Reg Murphy, publisher of The Baltimore Sun. ''I thought he did it with poise. And I don't think he removed much of the question.''

''I thought he came across very well, and handled a very difficult situation as well as he could under the circumstances,'' said John J. McCabe, general manager of the Los Angeles Herald Examiner.

McCabe added, however: ''As he said himself, whether the American people will find his explanation credible is another matter.''

Hart, a Democratic presidential candidate, faced a tough audience in addressing the convention of the American Newspaper Publishers Association at an overflow luncheon at the Waldorf-Astoria.

He received polite applause at the beginning and end of his speech, which started with his response to an article in The Miami Herald that said he spent Friday night with a Miami woman in his Washington townhouse.

''I guess I think he was better received than I anticipated, in view of everything,'' said Edward W. Estlow, president and chief executive officer of Scripps-Howard Newspapers.

Estlow, a fellow Coloradan who sat next to Hart on the dais, said Hart seemed surprisingly upbeat during their private conversation. He added that Hart said his wife, Lee, would be joining him in New Hampshire on Wednesday or Thursday.

Judging from the remarks of the publishers, however, the investigation into Hart's private life is just beginning.

''On the business of how credible he was, I think it remains to be seen,'' said Arthur E. Wible, publisher of the Dallas Times Herald. ''He said he gave a lot of information to (The Miami Herald) that didn't get printed. I'd sure like our newspaper, and AP and anybody else, to get the rest of the information.''

''The media's going to have a field day trying to get the rest of that information,'' Wible added. ''I don't think Mr. Hart, unfortunately, has heard the last of that.''

A sampling of publishers interviewed after Hart's speech were unanimous in supporting the propriety of the Herald's investigation. Several publishers, however, also agreed with Hart that the Herald may not have had all the facts needed to print its story.

Hart and his aides have said that the Herald mistakenly believed a woman was in the townhouse overnight because its reporters were not watching the back door.

Hart also said Tuesday that he offered information to the Herald backing up his version of events, but that the reporters did not want to hear it right away because they wanted to file their story before the deadline for the Sunday newspaper.

Richard G. Capen, the Herald's publisher, defended the newspaper in remarks that prefaced a question to Hart at the luncheon.

''We stand by the essential facts of the story,'' Capen said. He added that it was possible that someone had left Hart's house by the rear door, but added that the Herald had interviewed Hart and others involved in the story ''and we've given their comments full and prominent display in the Miami Herald.''

Ronald A. Ortiz, publisher of the Vineland (N.J.) Times Journal, said, ''I guess I have problems with the urgency of getting the story into print before substantiating all the facts.''

Wible said that if Hart ''gave a lot of significant information which clarified what was going on, and the reporters didn't want to hear that ... I have some trouble with that.'' He stressed that he hadn't heard the reporters' side of the story.

Tom Fiedler, one of the Herald's reporters, said the offer of more information was contingent on the newspaper not running the story on Sunday.