In the pressroom, there was an audible groan. For this was jolting, and over the line. Though Cheney had brought up the matter himself of having a "gay" daughter, in an earlier controlled setting -- to get it out in a careful way so that it would not become an issue -- this fact was still not known to most Americans.
But both John Edwards in Cleveland and Kerry in the Phoenix debate went out of their way to ensure that 50 million Americans knew one of Vice President Cheney's daughters is a lesbian.
Why would they do such a thing? To injure Dick Cheney among social and religious conservatives by implying a connection between his moral beliefs and his daughter's lifestyle. Both Kerry and Edwards know their support of civil unions, which are tantamount to gay marriages, is deeply unpopular. In Missouri, 72 percent recently voted against legalizing gay marriage.
Many states are conducting November referenda on the issue, and socially conservative Hispanics and African-Americans responding to their preachers are expected to come out in droves to vote down gay marriage as anti-biblical and immoral. Fearing they could be swept away in a floodtide of Christian and evangelical votes, Kerry and Edwards want Middle America to know, and not forget, that the Cheneys have a lesbian daughter.
That is the exploitation of a young woman's orientation and life choice -- over which her father has no control -- to wound Bush-Cheney in battleground states. Kerry campaign manager Mary Beth Cahill let the cat out of the bag when she described Cheney's daughter as "fair game."
Cheney, a self-described "angry father," said of the tactic, "You saw a man who will do and say anything to get elected." His wife charged Kerry with a "cheap and tawdry political trick."
"This is not a good man," said Lynne Cheney. "I am speaking as a mom and a pretty indignant mom. This is not a good man."
Kerry protested: "I was trying to say something positive about the way strong families deal with the issue." Yeah, right.
But the tactic has backfired. Though the media claim Kerry won all three debates, polls show the president coming away as more likable and beginning to recapture the lead he lost in Miami.
Kerry's outing of Cheney's daughter may prove a self-inflicted wounds that costs him the presidency of the United States.