Michael Dukakis, declaring the presidential race a dead heat, and George Bush were heading to the West Coast Tuesday for their second and final debate - a crucial meeting that may be the Democrat's last chance to turn his campaign around.

Dukakis decided to travel directly to Los Angeles from Boston Tuesday while Bush scheduled a brief address at the Seattle University en route to the California city playing host to the debate."Basically, we've got a dead heat out there," Dukakis said today in an interview on NBC-TV's "Today."

"As a challenger, that's a good thing," Dukakis said. "I'm encouraged in the last couple of weeks we've made up a lot of ground and we're feeling good about that."

Before leaving Boston, Dukakis visited a workshop organized to raise money for homeless Vietnam veterans.

Saying that one in three homeless Americans is a veteran, Dukakis praised the efforts of local citizens but added, "But I want our national government to be out there with you providing support, some resources, encouragement, help, leadership. The veterans who gave so much to us now ask only for their share of the American dream. And if there's one thing this nation ought to stand for it ought to be for the simple proposition that every one of our citizens and especially those who gave so much to us deserve to be full shareholders in that dream."

Some political analysts expect the televised forum Thursday night to be a rough-and-tumble affair as Dukakis, the Democratic Massachusetts governor, tries once more to impress a national audience enough to reverse the polls showing him behind the Republican vice president.

The latest survey in the debate state itself gives Dukakis a slight lead among Californians, 44 percent to 40 percent among 1,200 voters questioned Wednesday through Saturday.