Democrats Michael Dukakis and Jesse Jackson traded compliments in their first one-on-one debate Friday, but Jackson said it is too early to be "giving out coronation roses for the governor and taps for me."In the good-natured confrontation, the surviving Democratic presidential hopefuls directed most of their fire at the Reagan administration at everything from the Iran-Contra affair to plant-closing legislation five days before the Pennsylvania primary.
And the two candidates joked about the No. 2 spot on the ticket, a matter that has been the subject of intense speculation since Dukakis won a big victory on Tuesday in New York and moved firmly into the front-runner's spot. Jackson was asked if he wanted the vice presidential spot.
"It's a bit premature to be giving out coronation roses for the governor and taps for me," Jackson said. "We're now moving into the last lap of a long-distance race. I look forward to it."
Then Dukakis turned to Jackson and asked in a soft voice:
Jackson smiled and replied, "You got it, Mike."
Later Dukakis was asked how he could win in the South in the general election. Jackson added his analysis:
"Mike Dukakis on my ticket will win the South," provoking laughter from the audience at the University of Pennsylvania campus here.
During the debate, both men echoed the themes they used campaigning across Pennsylvania on Friday.
Dukakis praised the trade bill moving through Congress, saying it would be "a tragedy" if President Reagan vetoed the measure over a provision requiring companies to give a 60-day notice before shutting down a plant.
"A very modest, very mild, 60-day notice provision seems to me to be just simple justice for workers and working families," Dukakis said while campaigning in Toledo, Ohio.
Jackson turned his attention to Central America.
"Your generation must go beyond war in Latin America," he told students at a rally at West Chester State University near Philadelphia. "We're not threatened by three million Sandinistas. And, if so, we can't be saved by 15,000 Contras."
Dukakis aides said the Massachusetts governor was spending $100,000 on television advertising in Pennsylvania in advance of next Tuesday's primary, a relatively modest amount that reflects his status as overwhelming favorite in the race.
Bush, his nomination secure and his general election campaign planning well under way, spent the day fishing in Florida.
His aides, speaking on condition of anonymity, depicted the vice president as being uncomfortable with embattled Attorney General Edwin Meese III's refusal to resign. But Bush himself has not called for Meese's resignation.
The vice president attended a White House meeting on Wednesday with President Reagan at which two departing Justice Department officials said they thought Meese's presence was damaging the department.
In a full day of campaigning in advance of the debate, Dukakis accused Bush of failing to understand what it takes to "build an economic future and to create good jobs."