A fired-up Michael Dukakis campaigned today as the political ally of women and young people, while George Bush scoffed at his opponent's weekend embrace of the liberal label, calling it a "miracle of miracles."
With eight days left until Election Day, and some polls indicating a race closer than earlier surveys suggested, Bush shored up support in Kentucky and Missouri while Dukakis got a noisy welcome in California and said, "I'm fired up."
Taking a swipe at the vice president's long resume of appointed posts, the Democratic presidential nominee declared that "you can't inherit the White House, you have to earn the right to be President of the United States."
Dukakis told loudly cheering supporters at San Jose State University that Bush has been "on the wrong side of every issue," singling out issues of importance especially to women, such as pay equity, parental leave and health insurance.
He also said he was separated from Bush by his stands on the environment and on Supreme Court appointments.
Dukakis quoted Bush running mate Dan Quayle as telling a 12-year-old girl that "if she were raped and made pregnant by her father, the government had a right to force her to bear that child."
The audience erupted in loud boos.
Bush, campaigning in Louisville, Ky., recalled that Dukakis had "jumped all over me for using the 'L word' " in their last debate in Los Angeles. "Well, speaking of my opponent, yesterday, miracle of miracles, headlines read all about it, he's using the liberal label again," the Republican nominee said.
Bush also brushed off Dukakis' invitation for a third debate, saying that the real debate should be between Dukakis and Dukakis, "the New Left versus the Old Left."
At stops from Bakersfield to Stockton on Sunday, Dukakis told voters, "We need a President in the tradition, yes, the liberal tradition of Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman and John Kennedy."
Dukakis dropped the "L word"--as Bush and President Reagan regularly call it--during his appearances today but still referred to the heritage of Roosevelt, Truman and Kennedy.
Though the Dukakis campaign sought to characterize California, with its 47 electoral votes, as a toss-up based on their internal polling, a new ABC News poll put Bush ahead, 51% to 44%. The poll of 510 likely voters was conducted Saturday and Sunday.
The latest nationwide poll, a Time magazine survey published today, found the Republican ticket leading Dukakis-Bentsen by 10 points, 50% to 40%.
The survey of 1,096 probable voters was conducted last Tuesday and Wednesday and had a margin of error of plus or minus three percentage points.
Dukakis' running mate, Sen. Lloyd Bentsen, was focusing today on his home state of Texas, where a statewide poll released this weekend showed Bush maintaining a strong lead.