A confident George Bush launched his stretch drive for the White House on Friday on the wings of a highly acclaimed debate performance. Democrat Michael Dukakis vigorously attacked his rival but conceded, "The road ahead of us is going to be tough."
Bush campaigned in California beneath a large helium balloon reading "Say goodnight Mike." Party leaders radiated optimism about his chances for victory while aides warned against overconfidence in the final three weeks of the race.Dukakis, campaigning with running mate Lloyd Bentsen, ripped into Bush with a vigor unseen in his debate-night performance. He cited Bush's record on the environment, drugs, taxes and a variety of other issues and said, "Think of where we'll be four years from now if we try to get by on Mr. Bush's diet of old chestnuts, new baloney and the same old voodoo stew."
A presidential preference poll by the Los Angeles Times immediately following the debate found Bush leading Dukakis 52 percent to 42 percent.
A CBS News survey echoed two earlier surveys Thursday night that found Bush had beaten Dukakis in the debate. The CBS survey found Bush the victor 48-25, and found he was supported for the presidency by a margin of 54-43.
A larger sample, which examined debate viewers, and those who did not watch the debate showed the latter group had not changed their support, CBS said. The last CBS poll found the Republican ticket leading 50 percent to 46 percent.
Sen. Dan Quayle, the man who would be vice president, also touted Bush's performance and took a shot at Dukakis. He said the Democrat lacked the "common courtesy" to say something nice about Bush when given an invitation to do so by a debate questioner.
For his part, Bentsen said he thought Dukakis had done well in the debate, then added the race would be a "tough fight down to the end."
Bush took the morning off after his debate-night labors, then sought votes in California. "I believe that I moved my campaign forward by what happened last night," he said. But he told reporters, "There's no overconfidence at all. I can remember how these polls can change."
Campaign manager Lee Atwater said much the same thing, adding, "These big states are all still very close."
Dukakis was up early for a rare joint appearance with former primary opponent Jesse Jackson.
He seemed subdued. But later in the day, with running mate Bentsen at his side, Dukakis attacked Bush as a candidate of complacency. He also replied in personal terms to the vice president's campaign-long criticism of Dukakis' record on crime.
"Now I didn't learn about crime, as Mr. Bush did, from a Clint Eastwood movie. I learned about it when my father, a doctor, 77 years old, was gagged, beaten and robbed by a thief looking for drugs in his office. I learned about it when my brother was struck down in the prime of life by a hit-and-run driver."