GOFFSTOWN, N.H., FEB. 14 -- Vice President Bush and Sen. Robert J. Dole (R-Kan.) jostled again over the new arms control agreement with the Soviet Union today but spent the final Republican debate of the New Hampshire primary campaign fending off sharp attacks from their other rivals.

Locked in an extremely tight contest, the two front-runners for the GOP nomination avoided any dramatic moves before Tuesday's primary. Instead of any knockout blows, they faced a volley of tart criticism from Rep. Jack Kemp (R-N.Y.), former Delaware governor Pierre S. (Pete) du Pont IV and former television evangelist Pat Robertson, who are locked in their own extremely close battle for third place.

The televised debate sponsored by the League of Women Voters at St. Anselm's College here came as tracking surveys by The Washington Post and ABC News showed Bush and Dole back in a virtual tie. A survey today of 402 likely Republican voters in New Hampshire showed Dole the preference of 33 percent, Bush of 32 percent, Kemp 14 percent, du Pont 8 percent and Robertson 8 percent.

Today's results appeared to reverse a slide for Bush that began even before his third-place showing in the Iowa caucuses last Monday. Late last week, Dole had erased what had been a double-digit advantage for Bush here. On Friday, a day Alexander M. Haig Jr.'s endorsement of Dole dominated the news, Bush declined in the polling to his lowest level during the tracking.

At the debate, the expectation of a dramatic or repeated Bush-Dole clash was unfulfilled. Their argument over the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty came as Dole took credit for leading the Senate fight for the treaty and accused Bush: "You were for it before you read it. I wanted to read it first."

But the vice president -- who has accused Dole of waffling on the treaty -- shot back that he had been sent to Europe by President Reagan in 1983 to advance the deployment of INF missiles, and he quoted a Washington Post editorial at the time giving him credit for the effort.

The exchange typified a debate in which both Dole and Bush warily circled each other, each appearing concerned about avoiding a major error. Dole said afterward, "It was a draw. Everybody did all right." Bush pollster and strategist Robert Teeter agreed. "I don't think this debate had much impact in terms of change -- it just generally reinforced the support that the candidates already had."

What confrontations did crop up during the hour-long session, moderated by television newsman Edwin Newman, were sparked by thrusts from Kemp and du Pont. The former Delaware governor took out a copy of the no-tax pledge that has been a feature of New Hampshire politics for years and demanded of Dole, "Sign it!" Dole looked quizzically at the sheet of paper and then cracked, "Give it to George. I have to read it first." This response was an example of the free-wheeling humor and confidence Dole displayed in the wake of his Iowa triumph last week.

Kemp came after Bush when the vice president, in a discussion of a possible Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan, said he wanted to trust Reagan and believed the United States should watch to see if the Soviets actually pull out, as they have suggested. "Don't fight progress when you see it," Bush said. "Give peace a chance with your eyes wide open."

"You should be embarrassed," Kemp admonished the vice president, saying the give-peace-a-chance language was not appropriate for a Republican. Bush has often used this and similar formulations in talking about U.S.-Soviet relations.

One of the more extraordinary moments of the debate came when Robertson volunteered that he had learned the new arms control treaty had omitted Soviet SS4 and SS5 medium-range nuclear missiles that he said were now positioned in Cuba.

Robertson claimed he had learned this from a staff member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee but offered no proof to substantiate an explosive charge that the Soviets have placed such weapons in Cuba, in violation of a tacit U.S.-Soviet agreement that grew out of the 1962 Cuban missile crisis.

Sen. Warren B. Rudman (R-N.H.), Dole's chairman in this state and a member of the Appropriations defense subcommittee, said "I am totally unaware of such a thing." A Robertson spokesman, Kerry Moody, said "I assure you he has documentation."

{In Washington, a senior administration official called it "an absurd claim" and said there is no evidence of such missiles. An aide to Sen. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.), who has introduced an amendment to the INF Treaty demanding on-site inspection in Cuba to verify there are no SS4s or SS5s there, said there is no evidence the missiles are there, merely an absence of proof that they are not.}

As in previous debates, Robertson seemed to enjoy a special status. He did not directly attack any of his rivals and did not come under fire from Kemp and du Pont, who are battling Robertson for primacy in the second tier of GOP candidates.

The subject of taxes dominated talk about the economy. Kemp and du Pont challenged Bush and Dole to say they would not raise taxes. Bush and Dole both vowed they would not. Dole never did sign the no-tax pledge, and Bush lieutenants attempted to make an issue of it after the debate.

"The only thing of significance that happened is that Dole got the one question that he can't cope with -- will he raise taxes," said Bush campaign manager Lee Atwater.

In tone, Bush and Dole approached the debate as if they were front-runners, sidestepping most opportunities to assail one another. Instead, they sought to make points on their own terms and reinforce their central messages.

Bush used a closing statement similar to the revised speech he has been delivering since Thursday, comparing himself to President Lincoln and saying he was presenting himself to the voters "warts and all." He added, "I wouldn't ask for this job if I didn't think I was best." Bush also repeated his criticism that Dole's proposed spending freeze would be a "cop-out."

Dole, too, struck a familiar campaign refrain, citing his World War II experience, in which he recovered from serious injury, as proof he could provide strong leadership for the country. "I've been severely tested," he said. "I failed sometimes but I've gotten up."

Bush was firm in responding to a question from Newman about why, during a 1981 speech, he had praised deposed Philippine president Ferdinand Marcos' democratic principles. The vice president declared that Marcos had been a World War II patriot and had lifted martial law and promised new elections just before Bush made the speech. "They are friends of ours," Bush said, noting the importance of the Philippines.

Robertson followed by describing Marcos as "unbelievably crooked -- he was almost obsessed with greed."

Kemp aggressively pressed the others to address the Nicaraguan conflict, accusing Dole of expressing a willingness to "live with" the Marxist regime of Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega. "I'm plenty tough with Ortega," Dole retorted. But the senator added that Ortega "doesn't threaten this country."

The candidates argued over the government's role in combating the AIDS epidemic. While the others promoted a more aggressive program of testing, Dole cautioned against intruding on individual privacy and said the issue should not be politicized.

Early in the debate, Robertson was asked whether everything he had said as a television minister should now be ignored. Robertson said, "Of course not. But I'm running for president, not chief pastor."

Overall, the debate was less acrimonious than the Democratic debate Saturday night. The audience joined in with laughter at several points, including when Newman asked Dole whether television commercials are good for the political process.

"Well, mine are," the senator replied, to the delight of the crowd.

The Washington Post-ABC News tracking polls suggest that Bush has suffered and Dole prospered because of the fractured conservative Republican vote in New Hampshire, and because of the vice president's inability to hold his conservative base after his third-place finish in the Iowa caucuses.

Bush entered the week with the support of nearly two out of every five conservative Republican voters. But the surveys also showed that relatively few conservatives -- only about one of six -- supported Dole. While Bush did have a 2-to-1 advantage over Dole among conservatives, early polling suggests that the "little three" together equaled Bush's strength in this critical voter group.

Dole held a narrower lead among Republican moderates before the Iowa caucuses. But his primary competition for the moderate vote was Bush: Only about one of every four moderate Republican voters supported someone other than Bush or Dole.

Then came Iowa -- and the deluge. Interviews conducted later in the week disclosed that Dole had pulled even with Bush among conservatives while surging to claim nearly half of all moderates for a 2-to-1 advantage over the vice president among moderates.

The survey results also suggest that Dole's success among conservatives and moderates came directly at the expense of Bush. According to the Post-ABC polls, conservative and moderate support for Kemp, Robertson and du Pont remained unchanged through the week.

Today's results suggest that Dole has lost much of the advantage he enjoyed over Bush among moderate Republican voters. Among conservatives, the latest poll shows about equal support for the two front-runners.

Tracking polls at the end of the week suggested a potential for both candidates to grow. A significantly greater percentage of Dole's supporters than Bush's described their support as weak.

Dole appeared to have a greater opportunity for growth if there is substantial movement away from the bottom three candidates.

Two-thirds of Bush partisans at the end of the week characterized their support as strong, while fewer than half of Dole partisans said the same thing. That could mean somewhat reduced opportunities for further Dole gains.

But among supporters of all the candidates who describe their backing as weak, Dole is the preferred second choice by a substantial margin. And that could mean more Dole gains if supporters of the bottom three candidates decide to abandon their current choices to vote for one of the two front-runners.

Today's results reversed late-week declines by Bush. The average of interviews conducted Friday through today gave Dole 34 percent; Bush 28 percent, Kemp 14 percent, du Pont 10 percent and Robertson 9 percent.

Staff writers David S. Broder, James R. Dickenson, Lloyd Grove, Mary McGrory and Maralee Schwartz, polling director Richard Morin and polling analyst Kenneth E. John contributed to this report.