WASHINGTON—Presidential candidates are often criticized for being vague. But Michael Dukakis has learned the hard way that it also doesn't pay to be specific. He's had to change his stand on the space station.

Constantly pressed to cite areas where the Democratic standard bearer would trim the federal deficit, the Dukakis campaign used to mention the $30 billion space station as one potential target-this despite the fact that the candidate endorsed the concept of a space station. In the past, Dukakis reconciled these positions by saying that there might be less costly alternatives, including an unmanned facility, that could accomplish the same scientific goals. But since the Democratic primary, his universe has changed—at least with regard to the space station.

Last month, a dozen House and Senate Democrats read Dukakis aides the riot act on the candidate's tepid support for the orbiting station. At a closed-door meeting August 9, they...

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