Democrat Michael Dukakis on Monday blamed the Republican administration for economic conditions that put affordable housing out of reach for many Americans, while George Bush continued to depict his rival as soft on crime.
Both candidates kept their schedules light in advance of a second presidential debate, which campaign staffers now say will be held Thursday night - barring a rainout in the baseball playoffs.Dukakis and Bush campaigned in the morning but planned to spend the afternoon preparing for their Los Angeles encounter.
In Levitttown, N.Y., Dukakis used the backdrop of a post-World War II community to charge the Reagan-Bush administration with breaking the government's post-war promise to help families buy their first home.
"Since this administration took office, the price of houses has raced ahead of people's wages and has made it impossible for many people to buy the homes they grew up in," Dukakis said. He unveiled a program that would allow first-time home-buyers to use their Individual Retirement Account of tax-deferred pension savings for a downpayment on a home.
Bush continued to rail against liberals on the crime issue, saying "Frankly, law-abiding Americans are fed up with the cruel and unusual punishment inflicted on them by those who are soft on crime."
Though he did not mention Dukakis by name, Bush has relentlessly criticized the former Massachusetts furlough program under Dukakis' governorship. He said in a conversation with reporters Monday on Air Force Two that he favors review of the federal furlough program to make sure it doesn't "slip into the Massachusetts model."
Meanwhile, a series of state polls released over the weekend indicated that Bush is solidifying his lead over Dukakis.
Polls in Kansas, Ohio, New Mexico and Missouri showed Bush leading Dukakis, while a survey of voters in 15 Southern and border states found the Republican nominee holding a 12-point regional advantage over his Democratic rival.
The poll of 2,102 registered voters, conducted last week by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, showed Bush leading Dukakis 49-37 percent with 12 percent of those surveyed undecided.
Bush led in every state, including Florida, where he held a 26-point advantage, and Texas, where de spite the presence of Lone Star state Sen. Lloyd Bentsen on the Democratic ticket, the GOP nominee enjoys a 14-point lead.
Both are high-stakes Electoral College states. Florida has 21 electoral votes; Texas is the third biggest prize with 29.
The survey also included Alabama, Delaware, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, Georgia, Kentucky, Arkansas and North Carolina.
With his support strong in the South, Bush turned his attention Sunday to the Midwest and the crucial state of Illinois, which has 24 electoral votes.
The vice president and his wife, Barbara, rode in an old-fashioned fire truck along a 2-mile parade route between Cicero and Berwin, in the annual Houby Day parade, a Czechoslovakian celebration of bountiful mushroom crops.
"This is the day we celebrate family, we celebrate faith and we celebrate freedom," Bush said.
Thursday's 90-minute debate is scheduled in Pauley Pavilion on the UCLA campus. If, however, rainouts extend the National League playoff series, the date could change, Dukakis spokesman Mark Gearan said Sunday.
The Bipartisan Commission on Presidential Debates, which assumed sponsorship of the debate after the League of Women Voters withdrew, said Friday that the confrontation would follow the format of the candidates' first meeting in which Bush and Dukakis responded to questions from a panel of four reporters.
Newsweek magazine reported Sunday that when Prime Minister Bob Hawke voiced concerned that Dukakis might pull back U.S. forces in the Pacific, the vice president sought to reassure the Australian leader.
"If Dukakis wins, you've nothing to worry about," Bush told Hawke. "He's a solid fellow. He'll do all right by you." However, Bush spokeswoman Sheila Tate said Monday, "It's not an accurate quote."