Cheney Continues to Fight Long Odds Heading Into Wyoming Primary
WASHINGTON —If the polls are right, this primary Tuesday will be Trump retribution day in Wyoming.
By a quirk of the calendar and fate, Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., is the last of the 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach former President Donald Trump following the siege of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, to stand before her voters.
And in Trump world, that vote, coupled with her being the top Republican on the House Select Committee investigating that woeful day, makes her public enemy number one.
It also appears she is sure to lose on Tuesday night. The latest University of Wyoming poll, released Thursday, shows her nearly 30 points behind her Trump-backed opponent, Harriet Hageman.
None of that, however, suggests Cheney, the daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, is going down without a fight. And she’s not going down pandering either.
What she has done in the waning days of her apparently doomed re-election campaign is release a two-and-half minute commercial in which she effectively describes her primary, the midterm elections and the work of the committee as a zero sum game, one in which either Democracy wins and Donald Trump loses, or the other way around.
“The lie that the 2020 presidential election was stolen is insidious,” Cheney says. “It preys on those who love their country. It is a door Donald Trump opened to manipulate Americans to abandon their principles, to sacrifice their freedom, to justify violence, to ignore the rulings of our courts and the rule of law.”
“This is Donald Trump’s legacy, that it cannot be the future of our nation,” she continues. “History has shown us over and over again, how these types of poisonous lies destroy free nations. Like many candidates across this country, my opponents in Wyoming have said that the 2020 election was rigged and stolen. No one who understands our nation … [or has an] honest, honorable, genuine commitment to our Constitution would say that.
“It is a cancer that threatens our great Republic. If we do not condemn these lies, if we do not hold those responsible to account, we will be excusing [what has been said] and it will become a feature of all elections. America will never be the same. Nothing in our public life is more important than the preservation of the miracle given to us by God and our founding fathers. Nothing.”
Tim Murtaugh, an adviser for Hageman’s campaign, responded to the ad by accusing Cheney of abandoning her constituents in Wyoming.
“This video is basically an audition tape for CNN or MSNBC,” he said.
Despite the strong stand she’s taken, Cheney knows full well the tough spot she’s in.
The Wyoming Republican Party censured her in February 2021, a month after she cast her impeachment vote, and House Republicans ousted her as the party’s number three leader in the chamber, replacing her with Rep. Elise Stefanik, a Trump loyalist, from New York.
Of the 10 House Republicans who voted for Trump’s impeachment, four declined to seek another term and face the vitriol of the former president’s supporters. Three have lost their bids for re-election. These are Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, of Washington state, Peter Meijer, of Michigan, and Tom Rice, of South Carolina.
Two others survived their primaries: Rep. Dan Newhouse, of Washington, and Rep. David Valadao, of California.
But Cheney knows she’s not likely to join that duo on Tuesday — Trump won Wyoming by 70 percentage points in 2020.
Instead, in recent weeks, she has been stressing the point that making sure Trump never regains the presidency is more important than her own re-election.
“I am working hard to earn every single vote,” Cheney said in an interview on “Fox News Sunday” recently.
However, she said, “given the choice between maintaining my seat in the House of Representatives on the one hand or ensuring the survival of our constitutional republic and ensuring the American people know the truth about Donald Trump, I will choose the Constitution and the truth every day of the week and twice on Sunday.”
Former Vice President Dick Cheney, appearing in one of his daughter’s final primary campaign ads said he and his wife, former second lady Lynne Cheney, “are so proud of Liz for standing up for the truth, doing what is right, honoring her oath to the Constitution when so many in our party are too scared to do so.”
“Liz is fearless. She never backs down from a fight,” he said, adding, “there is nothing more important she will ever do than lead the effort to make sure Donald Trump is never again near the Oval Office. And she will succeed.”
Already there’s talk, in Wyoming and elsewhere, that Cheney’s run for re-election is a dress rehearsal for a potential bid for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination.
Asked about that during her “Fox News Sunday” appearance last month, Cheney said only “I’m going to continue to be guided by making sure I do my duty and making sure the American people understand the truth.”
As for the current race, the University of Wyoming poll, released by the school’s Wyoming Survey and Analysis Center, found that 57% of those planning to vote in the Republican primary on Tuesday plan to vote for Hageman, while only 28% said they would vote for Cheney.
The poll, which was conducted between July 25 and Aug 6, received 562 responses from likely primary voters. It has a margin of error plus or minus 4%.
Tellingly, 41% of respondents voting for Hageman said they are in fact voting against Cheney.
That’s not to say Cheney doesn’t have some strong supporters in the state.
About 98% of Democrats described as crossover voters support Cheney. The problem for the incumbent is there just aren’t enough of those voters to tip the scales.
“Back-of-the-napkin math says that number could represent as many as 20,000 votes in the GOP primary from currently registered Democrats, compared to as many as 200,000-plus votes from registered Republicans,” said Brian Harnisch, the director of the center. “It does not appear at the time of this survey the numbers are there for party switching to have a significant effect on the outcome of this race.”
And while Cheney is leading with independents, 43% to 41% for Hageman, that margin also isn’t enough for her to hold on to her seat.
“For Cheney to be successful, in particular, she needs to do very well among independents, and she’s not doing well enough to overcome Hageman’s advantage among Republican identifiers,” said Jim King, professor of political science at the University of Wyoming.