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Singling Out Mary Cheney Wrong, Most Say

2 in 3 Polled Find Kerry's Comment 'Inappropriate'

By Richard Morin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, October 17, 2004; Page A05

An overwhelming majority of voters believes it was wrong for John F. Kerry to have mentioned in Wednesday's presidential debate that Vice President Cheney's daughter is a lesbian, according to The Washington Post tracking survey.

Nearly two in three likely voters -- 64 percent -- said Kerry's comment was "inappropriate," including more than four in 10 of his supporters and half of all swing voters. A third -- 33 percent -- thought the remark was appropriate.

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Kerry's comment touched off a rare row among family members of the two tickets, and has become one of the hottest topics on talk radio since a CBS News report about Bush's National Guard service that was later discredited.

In the first reaction from President Bush, White House press secretary Scott McClellan told reporters on Air Force One on Friday that Bush "does not believe it was appropriate."

Asked whether he was looking for an apology from Kerry's camp, McClellan replied, "That's something for Senator Kerry to decide." McClellan said he thinks "a lot of people" share the president's view of the comment. "I cannot think of a single instance where a presidential candidate has talked about his opponent's child in such a way," McClellan said.

Kerry made the comment when asked whether he believes homosexuality is a choice. Bush answered that he did not know. Kerry said, "If you were to talk to Dick Cheney's daughter, who is a lesbian, she would tell you that she's being who she was, she's being who she was born as."

Cheney has two daughters, and one of them, Mary Cheney, who heads vice presidential operations for the Bush-Cheney campaign, has been open about being gay.

After the debate, her mother, Lynne Cheney, criticized Kerry for raising the issue of her daughter's sexual orientation. The vice president expressed his anger the following day.

The Post tracking poll shows Bush leading Kerry 50 to 47 percent. Independent Ralph Nader continues to barely register nationally, getting 2 percent of the hypothetical vote. But the survey suggests that Kerry continues to claim a large lead in key battleground states. In these 13 states, Kerry held a 53 percent to 43 percent advantage among likely voters.

A total of 1,555 registered voters were interviewed Wednesday through Friday nights, including 1,203 likely voters. The margin of sampling error is plus or minus three percentage points for the overall results. It is plus or minus six percentage points for the question asking views on Kerry's comment about Cheney's daughter, which was asked on Thursday night.

Staff writer Mike Allen contributed to this report.

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