Republican George Bush, conceding that women's negative views are hurting him in the polls, promised Friday he would spell out "what I feel on certain women's issues." Democrat Michael Dukakis said his own positions are evident from his record on pay equity, child care and affirmative action.
Bush said his "gender gap" problem - the difficulty he and some other Republicans have had in drawing votes from women - would be discussed during the coming week of meetings with GOP governors and other party officials at his Kennebunkport, Maine, retreat.Dukakis, the Democratic front-runner, continued to blast the Reagan administration for its dealings with Panamanian military leader Manuel Noriega, talking of alleged $200,000 payments by the CIA as well as the failed negotiations to get him out of power.
"We've been paying that guy what we pay the president of the United States," Dukakis said Friday in Albuquerque, N.M. "You can't be serious about waging a real war against drugs when we have an administration that can't say no to Noriega."
The vice president, though saying he has not agreed with some administration policies dealing with Noriega, said the U.S. goal remains the same despite the breakdown in talks designed to remove him from power.
"If we can find some way to get him out and bring him to justice, that would suit me just fine," Bush said in a news conference on the lawn in front of his vacation retreat.
Dukakis, grinding toward a nominating majority expected in 10 days, met briefly with remaining party rival Jesse Jackson at the Albuquerque airport. The men emerged smiling from the session that lasted about five minutes. Aides would not discuss the substance of the meeting.
Earlier, Jackson reached out to American Indians, saying they have been ignored by the federal government.
"It's not too much to ask for a summit with the American Indian leadership," Jackson told Indian leaders at the All Indian Pueblo Council. "Hispanics in the barrios, blacks in the ghettos, ranchers on ranches, Indians on reservations . . . there's a tendency of these people to be abandoned by law."
The Democratic candidates planned Memorial Day weekend campaigning in New Jersey, which joins New Mexico, California and Montana in the final round of presidential primaries on June 7. Dukakis has more than 1,700 of the 2,081 delegate votes he needs to win the party's nomination, with 466 at stake June 7.
Bush, spending a week in Maine during the superpower summit in Moscow, said he is getting recharged for a combative stance as the underdog against Dukakis in the fall campaign for the White House.
"I like fighting back," he declared.
"It's the Maine air," said the GOP nominee-to-be. "When I get up here I feel - it's not feistiness - but I feel very relaxed about it. I don't feel troubled by somebody pointing out I'm behind in the polls. . . . I'm coming out of 10 points down in these polls and I've got five months to fight back."
The latest ABC News-Washington Post poll said that Dukakis has a 53-40 margin over Bush among registered voters.
In the poll, women favored Dukakis 61-33, while Bush led among men by four percentage points. Other polls have also showed a gender gap, although not as large as this one.
"What I've got to do is more clearly define what I feel on certain women's issues. One of them will be day care," Bush said.
Dukakis also noted the polls during his appearances in Albuquerque, where he, too, talked about women's issues.
"We Democrats have the best chance to win the presidency in years and we're going to do it," he told the Federation of Democratic Women.