SOMERSWORTH, N.H., JAN. 12 -- A curious kind of reverse class warfare has broken out in the race for the Republican presidential nomination, with Sen. Robert J. Dole (R-Kan.) emphasizing how poor he once was and Vice President Bush talking about how rich Dole is now.

Both candidates today tried to call a halt to the dispute at day's end but for a while it continued in full flurry when Dole was asked about his net worth and Bush's challenge to him and the other Republican candidates to make public their income tax returns.

Dole replied by suggesting that most of the wealth attributed to him belongs to his wife, Elizabeth, a lawyer and former transportation secretary, and that he has been more generous in making charitable contributions than Bush.

"My little holdings, I think, will be made available," Dole said. "But that's not the point. The point is where did we start in life. I know where I started and how I got where I am.

"Just because I've been somewhat successful is, I think, part of the American dream," he continued. "Nobody gave it to me. I didn't have rich and powerful parents. I made it the hard way. I worked at it. I don't really have much."

Financial disclosure reports filed with the Senate by Dole for 1986 listed certificates of deposit, savings accounts, retirement accounts and real estate valued at between $240,277 and $534,277. (Senators report the value of such assets within broad ranges, rather than exact amounts.)

Dole's report and a similar one filed by his wife in her capacity as transportation secretary show that the couple's joint pre-tax income in 1986 was close to $500,000. In addition to his Senate majority leader's salary of $85,000, Dole reported receiving a $50,000 advance from Simon & Schuster for the book he was writing with his wife; $40,000 from radio programs; $13,728 in Army retirement pay; $31,825 from speeches and articles, and at least $10,000 in dividends and interest -- for a grand total of $230,543 in pre-tax income.

During the same period, his wife received a salary of $99,500 and had outside income of between $50,000 and $100,000 from a blind trust; $22,050 from speeches and articles, and several thousand dollars more in rent, dividends and interest, according to the report she prepared last October.

On Monday night, Bush released copies of tax returns he filed jointly with his wife, Barbara, for 1973-86, which showed that in 1986 taxes of $115,000 were paid on an adjusted gross income of $346,344.

Raising a new issue in the dispute, Dole added today that "I've given about $500,000 to charity over the last several years. I'd like to see the Bushes match that."

Bush, campaigning elsewhere here, didn't bite. "I responded a week ago to a series of attacks" by Dole, he said. "I made a mistake in doing that . . . . I want to stay on the high road."

Later, Dole conceded that much of his charitable giving involved speaking fees and other honoraria that he was required since 1983 to donate because of limits on outside income for Senate leaders at his salary level. By law, Dole had to give to charity outside income in excess of $34,000.

Dole's financial disclosures show that in 1984, 1985 and 1986, he earmarked $283,197 in fees from speechmaking and article writing to charities, many of them in Kansas.

In 1983, before the limits on outside income, Dole reported receiving $106,667 from the speechmaking. That year, Dole channeled another $92,250 that he received in honoraria to charities. The money came from dozens of major companies, business organizations, trade associations and other groups.

At the heart of this Bush-Dole dispute is the simple calculation that in a race for president, personal wealth -- which the two leading GOP rivals both enjoy -- is not a political asset. Dole emphasizes his humble origins in Depression-era Kansas and his identification with "ordinary Americans," implicitly suggesting that Bush, who was born into a wealthy Connecticut family, does not share the same values and outlook.

Dole's campaign theme -- "he is one of us" -- is meant to convey this message. "I made it the hard way" is a constant Dole campaign refrain.

In campaign appearances, Dole sought to muffle the dispute but was often questioned about it. "When you say vote for Bob Dole because he's one of us, that hits a tender spot," Dole said. "I can't help it. I am what I am, and I was what I was when I was growing up, and a lot of people out there identify with that."

Outside a gun factory here, Dole told reporters, "The issues are what we should be talking about instead of how much your bank balance is. I don't know how much mine is, but as soon as I find out I'll let you know." He added, "What we want you to go after is how many millions in taxpayers' money {Bush} is spending campaigning in each state." Dole has complained frequently about the advantages Bush enjoys as the incumbent vice president.

By day's end, both Bush and Dole were trying to call a truce, both over the wealth issues, and over Bush's problems with the Iran-contra affair. Asked at a breakfast here to speculate about Bush's role in the Iran-contra affair, Dole said, "I don't really think the Iran-contra affair is an issue. I've been trying to play that down."

Bush said he was going to keep his campaign "on the issues as much as I can. Keep my cool best as I can and absorb whatever shots come my way." Added Dole, "It's time for Bob Dole and George Bush and members of our committee to stop all this Mickey Mouse." Staff writers David Hoffman and Dan Morgan contributed to this report.