updated 9/10/2004 3:52:14 PM ET 2004-09-10T19:52:14

Vice President Dick Cheney Friday tempered comments he made earlier this week that warned of the risk of another terrorist attack if Democratic Sen. John Kerry were elected president.

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In an interview with the Cincinnati Enquirer, Cheney said he wanted to clarify his remarks Tuesday in Des Moines, Iowa, which caused a stir among Republicans and Democrats alike for the bluntness of his assertion.

“I did not say if Kerry is elected, we will be hit by a terrorist attack,” Cheney told the newspaper during a campaign swing through the battleground states of Ohio and Wisconsin where he is working to bring swing voters to the Republican side.

Some critics suggest such a strong assault on a political opponent might backfire against a candidate, especially among independent voters who could see it as too strident.

The vice president said what he had meant was that if the United States is attacked again, he believed Kerry would fall back on a “pre-9/11 mind-set” on foreign policy instead of the ”pre-emptive” doctrine pursued by President Bush.

After the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States the Bush administration adopted a policy of pre-emptive military action to attack foes before they could become a threat. Bush launched the invasion of Iraq in 2003 promising to rid it of weapons of mass destruction, however no stockpiles of such weapons have been found there.

“Whoever is elected president has to anticipate more attacks. My point was the question before us is: Will we have the most effective policy in place to deal with that threat? George Bush will pursue a more effective policy than John Kerry,” Cheney said in the interview.

Kerry campaign spokesman Phil Singer responded that “Sen. Kerry has been very clear in saying he will hunt down and kill the terrorists before they get us.”

Cheney said in Des Moines on Tuesday that it was essential that Americans make the right choice in the Nov. 2 president election “because if we make the wrong choice, then the danger is that we’ll get hit again.”

“We’ll get hit in a way that will be devastating from the standpoint of the United States and that we’ll fall back into the pre-9/11 mindset if you will that in fact these terrorist attacks are just criminal acts and that we’re not really at war.”

Kerry’s vice presidential running mate, North Carolina Sen. John Edwards, responded on Tuesday that Cheney was using “scare tactics” and said it showed “once again that he and George Bush will do anything and say anything to save their jobs.”

Cheney later on Friday elaborated on the differences between Bush’s approach and that of Kerry, a Massachusetts senator.

“In the final analysis, even if we’re successful 99 percent of the time, it’s a little like football ... a good defense isn’t enough. We’ve got to go on the offense and that’s been the key to the president’s strategy,” Cheney said during a forum at a Green Bay restaurant.

Kerry said earlier this week that Bush made the “wrong choices” on when and how to pursue the war in Iraq and said his failure to line up enough support among allies for the war had cost America billions.

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