Gov. Michael S. Dukakis asserted yesterday that voters by the millions are giving his underdog campaign "a very strong second look" in the waning days of the race for the White House, while George Bush said Democrats were "grossly unfair" to say his advertising is tinged with racism.
"You're looking at a man who was out front for civil rights and I will be again," the vice president said in a network television interview. He defended running mate Dan Quayle on the same score and said any political wounds would heal quickly after the election.
Dukakis combined an attack on the Reagan-Bush administration's record on drugs with ritual declarations that the political tide was turning in his favor. "His administration has cut deals with foreign drug runners. I'm going to cut aid" to their nations, said the Democratic nominee.
Dukakis was trying desperately to reverse poll deficits in several large Electoral College battlegrounds at once. He ventured unexpectedly into N. W. Jersey, crooning, a la Bruce Springsteen, "I was born to run and born to win." But Bush, Reagan, Quayle and Co. were pouring it on in Ohio, where private polls continued to show a solid Republican edge.
The public opinion polls in the White House campaign continued to provide encouragement for Bush.
ABC said its survey of North Carolina--once Dukakis' strongest hope for a Southern success--gave the vice president an 11-point edge. Dukakis held a four-point margin in a New York survey.
Bush and Dukakis were spending millions on campaign-closing television and radio commercials, and both the Democratic and Republican parties previewed a spate of advertisements designed to maximize party support.
Dukakis had an ad featuring one of the most memorable television moments of the campaign, with Democratic vice presidential candidate Lloyd Bentsen turning to Quayle during their debate and saying, "Senator, you're no Jack Kennedy."
Republicans countered with the Great Communicator.
"America is at peace, and we are prosperous once more....On Tuesday, I hope you will vote Republican--up and down the ticket--to continue the change we began in 1981," said President Reagan in a 30-second GOP television commercial.
Bush and Dukakis both appeared on morning television programs while embarking on another dawn-to-dusk dash through key battleground states.
In a live 30-minute interview on NBC's "Today" show and later at campaign appearances in Illinois and elsewhere, Bush said any political wounds would heal in the weeks after the election. The vice president also renewed his no-new-taxes pledge.
Bush heatedly denied that his attacks on Dukakis over the Massachusetts prison furlough program had racist overtones for citing the case of Willie Horton Jr., who is Black. Horton, a convicted murderer, brutalized a Maryland couple after escaping, but Bush said his commercial "didn't have any reference to his race and no picture on it."
He said Dukakis countered with an ad showing a picture of a Hispanic prisoner who had escaped from a federal prison program and committed crimes.
"...I don't have one ounce of bigotry in my body. Nor does my running mate," Bush said. He added he wanted to "leave the tired baggage of bigotry behind us."