LEVITTOWN, N.Y.--Democratic presidential nominee Gov. Michael S. Dukakis, bidding for the support of young middle class voters, proposed yesterday allowing first-time home buyers to use up to $10,000 of their IRAs for a down payment.
While outlining his housing proposal, Dukakis also sounded an optimistic note in the face of polls showing him trailing Republican George Bush. He told a partisan crowd at Gen. Douglas MacArthur High School, "This one is out there to be won. You know it and I know it.
"We can taste it; we can feel it."
A pair of surveys released yesterday gave Dukakis reason for optimism. They show the Republican ticket of Bush and Indiana Sen. Dan Quayle in a virtual dead heat with Dukakis and Texas Sen. Lloyd Bentsen. Quayle was seen as having a negative impact in both surveys.
A Los Angeles Times survey showed the Republican ticket leading the Democratic ticket 44 percent to 41 percent. But when Bush and Dukakis were pitted against against each other without their respective running mates, Bush led 48-39. A 5 point margin of error closed the difference in both cases.
In an ABC News-Washington Post poll, Bush had 50 percent to 47 percent for Dukakis. That survey also had a 5 point margin of error.
The Times poll, conducted over the weekend by telephone, also found that Bentsen far outperformed Quayle in last week's vice presidential debate. But it also found that Dukakis had a 45 percent unfavorable rating, compared with 40 percent unfavorable rating for Quayle.
The ABC-Post poll, in an effort to assess the Quayle "drag" among the electorate, found that 2 percent of all voters supported Dukakis only because of their negative feelings about Quayle, and 6 percent said Quayle was the "major" reason for supporting Dukakis.
Dukakis spoke early in the day in one of the communities that came to symbolize the post-World War II home-building boom and recalled bipartisan efforts to "promise to provide affordable housing for all Americans."
He said the Reagan administration "broke that promise in the early 1980s."
From Levittown, Dukakis went to midtown Manhattan to march in the annual Columbus Day parade.
With New York Gov. Mario Cuomo at his side and Mayor Edward Koch just behind him, Dukakis walked up Fifth Avenue on a clear cool day to the cheers of a largely friendly crowd.
John F. Kennedy Jr., who was on crutches after breaking his foot in a bicycling accident, marched part of the way with Dukakis.
Red, white and blue Dukakis-Bentsen signs lined the route, punctuated only rarely by Bush placards.
While Dukakis appeared to have the parade crowd on his side, Bush received the endorsement of Il Progresso, the nation's largest Italian language daily newspaper.
Bush supporters passed out copies of the newspaper which said, "The traditional values of Italian-Americans can be found in the electoral program of Vice President Bush."
After the parade, Dukakis was returning to Boston to resume preparations for his second and last debate with Bush.
"I'm looking forward very, very much to that debate on Thursday night," he told the audience at the Gen. Douglas MacArthur High School.
"This is a tight race, folks, and it's getting tighter every day," he said. Then, in a reference to the vice presidential debate between Bentsen and Quayle, Dukakis said, "And the events of the last week have tightened it up some more."
As usual, he laced his speech with disparaging references to Quayle.
"George Bush and his friends are satisfied," he said. "They say all is well. They believe Dan Quayle is the only cloudon their horizon. Dan Quayle is more than just acloud, he's a major storm system. ...This is onestorm the American people can avoid."
Dukakis dubbed his housing proposal "HomeSTART" and said it was "aimed at giving families achance to buy their first home--a start on theladder of opportunity and security thathomeownership represents."
He said it was "a simple solution. No newbureaucracies, no red tape. What it will do ispermit first-time homebuyers to invest their IRAsavings or their tax-deferred pension plans tomake downpayments on their homes."
Myles Lynk, a Dukakis adviser who worked onformulating the proposal, said there would be a$10,000 cap on the amount that could be withdrawnfrom Individual Retirement Accounts.
"We don't want to create an incentive toliquidate IRAs," he said.
In addition, Dukakis would reduce the downpayment required for federally insured mortgages.
Lynk said the principal cost of the homeownership plan would be the estimated $400 millionloss in tax revenue resulting from the increasedincentive for people to contribute to IndividualRetirement Accounts