President Reagan, declaring that "Star Wars" has boosted prospects for peace between the superpowers, asked voters in his Saturday radio address to cast their ballots on Election Day for candidates who support the Administration's Strategic Defense Initiative.
"I believe that prospects for strengthening peace between our country and the Soviet Union have become better than at any time in the last 40 years," Reagan said, adding that future success on arms control agreements will require congressional support.
The President charged that "some in Congress" tried to cut funding for SDI on the eve of the recent Reykjavik, Iceland, summit, and he urged voters to "let your elected representatives know that that's not what you want."
Reagan did not mention that the Democratic-controlled House had withdrawn a number of cost-cutting defense proposals out of deference to his meeting with Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev.
Reagan broadcast his address live from the Century Plaza before going to an Anaheim campaign appearance for Senate candidate Ed Zschau. White House spokesman Larry Speakes had promised that the radio address would not be a political message, but with just three days to go until the election, the temptation to ride the wave of public support for "Star Wars" was apparently too great.
Reagan also took the opportunity to clarify his position on the U.S. arms control proposal in the aftermath of the Reykjavik summit.
In recent days on the campaign stump, Reagan has departed from his prepared text to suggest that he might be willing to go further than the official U.S. position in freeing the world of nuclear weapons.
But White House officials have insisted that Reagan's ad-lib comments do not reflect a change in policy. In his radio remarks, Reagan carefully reiterated the U.S. position of achieving a 50% reduction of U.S. and Soviet strategic forces in the next five years, eliminating intermediate-range missiles in Europe and scrapping all ballistic missiles on both sides in the next decade.
Reagan credited "Star Wars" with bringing the Soviets back to the bargaining table and predicted that "it will keep them there." He also said the missile defense system would help assure Soviet compliance with future arms accords.
Several arms control experts have taken issue with that argument. They contend that SDI would have the reverse effect of encouraging the Soviets to cheat because the only way they could counter SDI would be to double their number of launchers and warheads.
In a broadcast response for the Democrats, Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa said, "There are no party lines" on issues of security and peace. He then catalogued domestic economic and social questions on which he charged Republicans with failing the nation's middle class.
Republicans seek "a blank check to be a rubber-stamp Senate for another six years," Harkin said, but 1986 is a year when "we need to restore a balance to our national priorities." He said it is becoming harder for increasing numbers to achieve the American dream of "economic security, opportunity, a decent job and owning your own home."
"Average take-home pay has gone down 6% in the last few years," Harkin said, "while the cost of owning a home has skyrocketed and college is so expensive that most couples need to start saving as soon as the baby is born."
Similarly, he said, the elderly pay more of their incomes for necessities, while small farmers and small businesses are going bankrupt. Declaring the GOP agenda to be to enrich the wealthy at the expense of the rest of the nation, Harkin accused Republicans of failing to fight foreign trade competition and paring educational programs, when it should be "time to invest in America."
Times staff writer Don Irwin in Washington contributed to this story.