LOS LUNAS, N.M. – Vice President Dick Cheney (search) said Sunday that Sen. John Kerry's (search) first response to Usama bin Laden's (search) new videotape was to take a poll to find out what he should say about it.
A spokesman for Kerry's campaign did not deny polling on the bin Laden videotape, but suggested President Bush has done so. Bush's campaign strategist denied asking any poll questions about the Al Qaeda terrorist.
"The thing that I find amazing about it is that John Kerry's first response was to go conduct a poll," Cheney told supporters in Fort Dodge, Iowa. "He went into the field ... to find out what he should say about this tape of Usama bin Laden."
"It's as though he doesn't know what he believes until he has to go and check the polls, his finger in the air, to see which way the wind is blowing and then he'll make a decision," said the vice president, who offered no evidence to back up his claim. "George Bush doesn't need a poll to know what he believes, especially about Usama bin Laden."
"I don't think that's a man who is up to the task of being commander in chief," Cheney said of Kerry.
Kerry spokesman Joe Lockhart said Cheney "should examine his own house before throwing stones."
Asked whether Kerry's polls included questions about the videotape, Lockhart said, "We don't talk about our internal polls."
Matthew Dowd, the Bush campaign's strategist, denied asking about the videotape.
"We have not asked any questions related to bin Laden, this tape, or any other tape in our polling," Dowd said. "The president stands on principle and so does the campaign."
Lockhart said Cheney was referring to a Democracy Corps poll and inaccurately linked it to the Kerry campaign's private polling. Democracy Corps is a Democratic organization and not part of the Kerry campaign, though its management has worked closely with Kerry's team.
Its most recent poll asked voters about the bin Laden tape and found that more people said it made them feel like Bush had taken his "eye off the ball" in the war on terror than thought it underscored the importance of the president's approach.
A conference call with reporters on the poll included Kerry campaign staffers.
"For the Kerry campaign to say that this poll is not their own is laughable when Tad Devine and Joe Lockhart are the ones presenting the results," Cheney campaign spokeswoman Anne Womack said as the vice president arrived in New Mexico for a campaign appearance.
Kerry campaign spokesman Phil Singer said, "For the Bush campaign to continue making this charge when they know it's not true is laughable."
Cheney's new attack followed his comments earlier in the day that Kerry, the Democratic presidential nominee, had turned his back on U.S. troops to get ahead politically.
Kerry "is not a steadfast leader. Our president is," Cheney told hundreds of Republican supporters at stops in Ohio and Michigan, as he opened a nonstop leg of campaigning that will take him to Hawaii.
Cheney started the day in Toledo, Ohio, pressing one of the campaign's most consistent lines of attack on Kerry's Senate vote against $87 billion to help finance the U.S. war in Iraq. Bush's re-election campaign says the Massachusetts senator voted as he did because of the then-surging anti-war candidate Howard Dean. Kerry has rejected the accusation.
Cheney said that Kerry "in order to advance himself turned his back on the troops."
Singer responded: "John Kerry has spent the better part of his career on behalf of the military. The senator has been concerned about the consequences of giving the president a blank check and we're seeing the consequences of that in Iraq. It's a tragedy."