The Duke and the Veep are out there slugging away. One of them will become the new resident in the White House. And in Detroit the motor moguls are watching with more than a little concern.

There isn't any unanimity, either, General Motors chairman Roger Smith and Ford's top guy, Donald Peterson, are betting on George Bush. But Chrysler chairmanLee Iacocca wouldn't be all that unhappy if Michael Dukakis wins. The reason? Dukakis and Iacocca are both on record as being very concerned about the nation's budget and its trade deficits.

At the drop of a hubcap Iacocca will tell anyone willing to listen that unless America's federal fiscal house is put in order, we are in deep trouble. And Iacocca is not particularly concerned over another issue, CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Economy), that has GM and Ford leaning toward Bush.

Financial concerns have dominated Iacocca's bid to reserve Chrysler's fortunes. The company was in serious trouble when he took over. According to his book "Iacocca," nobody seemed to know how much anything cost and appeared to care less. Heads roled and new blood was brought on board. Chrysler survived.

Under Iacocca's leadership, Chrysler passenger car products became smaller and more fuel-efficient front-wheel drive vehicles. And that is why he isn't much worried about CAFE.

Ford and GM are in a different position. Both still build a number of large rear-wheel drive cars that are popular and profitable. And not as fuel-efficient.Several small cars sold by GM and Ford are built overseas, and because of the way the CAFE law is written, can't be used to offset the higher gasoline consumption of the cars they build in the United States.

Dukakis is on record as favoring the law mandating increasingly better fuel efficiency. He is on record as being in favor of higher fuel economy figures thatnow require an average of 26.5 miles per gallon and is set to go to 27.5 mpg in 1989 and 1990.

Neither Ford nor GM want to follow Chrysler's lead toward increased fuel economy because, they said, such a move would endanger some of their more popular models and, ultimately, cost autoworkers their jobs.

They estimate between 100,000 to 300,000 jobs might be at stake if they are forced to engineer their cars the extra mile per gallon. (GM's fleet currently averages 26mpg.) And they believe Bush is the candidate more likely to relax industry standards.