Liz Cheney braces for primary loss as focus shifts to 2024

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CHEYENNE, Wyo.– Three weeks before the most important election of her political career, Liz Cheney was nowhere to be found as thousands of voters gathered for a massive midsummer rodeo and cowboy festival in largest city in Wyoming.

Instead, the three-term Republican congresswoman was 1,600 miles away in Washington, chairing a U.S. House committee largely made up of Democrats determined to speak out against former President Donald Trump’s attack on the democracy during the Jan. 6, 2021, uprising. As the Cowboy Party roared at home, Cheney spoke out against Trump’s failures.

“Donald Trump made a deliberate choice to violate his oath of office,” she said during Thursday’s hearing.

Dean Finnerty, a Wheatland rancher competing in the steer wrestling competition, was unmoved.

“I’ll tell you what: I voted for Cheney when she ran last time and I will never vote for her again,” Finnerty said. “I don’t know if she represents the conservative Americans who elected her.”

Cheney’s relentless criticism of Trump from a Capitol Hill committee room represents the centerpiece of an unconventional campaign strategy that could well lead to his political demise, at least in the short term. Many of Cheney’s allies are prepared — if not resigned — for a loss in Wyoming’s Aug. 16 Republican primary to Trump-backed challenger Harriet Hageman.

But as primary day approaches, Cheney’s team is also confident that her unorthodox strategy in 2022 could put her in a stronger position for the 2024 presidential race. Cheney’s fierce anti-Trump message as a that vice chair of the congressional committee investigating the insurgency has bolstered her national brand while expanding a nationwide network of bipartisan Trump donors and critics who could spur an eventual run for the White House.

Cheney has yet to finalize a 2024 decision, but she has not ruled out a presidential bid as a Republican or an independent.

“The most important thing is to protect the nation from Donald Trump,” Cheney said in an ABC News interview that aired Friday. She said she would make a decision about a potential White House bid “down the road.”

Cheney’s supporters understand the political paradox she faces in Wyoming, the state where Trump scored her biggest margin of victory, 43 points, less than two years ago.

“She knew she was shooting herself in the foot politically (in Wyoming) and was going to walk around limping for the rest of her life,” said Landon Brown, a Wyoming state representative and Cheney’s ally, about Cheney’s steadfast Trump. critical. “But I could see it blossoming into something bigger.”

Cheney, the 55-year-old daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, is perhaps the best known of a small group of so-called “Never Trump” Republicans weighing the presidential nominations for 2024. They include the governor of Maryland limited-timer Larry Hogan and Cheney’s only Republican colleague on the Jan. 6 commission, Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., who opted out of seeking re-election this fall.

Trump would likely dominate a wide range of opponents in the presidential primary if he ran again, as he said. But there is also a notable group of Republican voters eager to overtake Trump and his ongoing struggle to undo his 2020 election defeat.

Yet few believe that an outspoken critic of Trump could ultimately prevail in a Republican presidential primary. The vast majority of Republican voters still approve of Trump.

And while his allies may be optimistic about his long-term future, Cheney would certainly like to avoid a meteoric loss next month in his home country.

In the face of constant and credible death threats, she was forced to abandon traditional retail campaigns, swapping public rallies and town halls for private events where her presence is often not revealed to the public until after their conclusion, if at all.

She was essentially excommunicated by the Wyoming Republican Party, which voted last year to censure Cheney before deciding to stop recognizing her as a Republican altogether. Local GOP offices offer yard signs for Hageman and many other Republicans on the ballot, but not for Cheney.

Left with few options, she turned to Democrats for help. His campaign website now offers a link to a form for voters to change their party affiliation to Republican to participate in the Republican primary.

Kinzinger’s political team is helping to accelerate his crossover push.

“We need more principled leaders like Liz to make sure those who want our democracy to fail don’t succeed,” Kinzinger told AP. “There has never been more urgency for pro-democracy voters to participate in primary elections.”

Cheney resisted private pressure from some allies to back away from his anti-Trump message. Many Republicans on the ballot this year who criticized Trump after Jan. 6 have since tried to sidestep the controversy by focusing on local issues in their districts, President Joe Biden or runaway inflation.

Cheney declined to soften his message, instead leaning on Trump at the height of his campaign.

In her re-election campaign announcement video in May, she vowed to “reject lies” without giving in to “pressure or intimidation”. In her closing statement during last month’s Republican primary debate, she denounced “the lies of Donald Trump”, swearing, “I will never put the party above my duty to the country”.

Meanwhile, Trump has made defeating Cheney a top priority.

He called her a “despicable human being” on his social media site this month. And in May, Trump traveled to Wyoming’s second-largest city, Casper, to rally support for his preferred Cheney successor, conservative attorney Harriet Hageman.

While Cheney focuses his energy on the Jan. 6 commission, Hageman has taken the state by storm, courting small, rural crowds in the traditional mold of Wyoming political politics. The approach is more like the one Cheney herself used to dominate a crowded Republican primary field to win Wyoming’s only House seat in 2016.

Friends and foes have noticed his absence this year.

“I know Liz absolutely wants to be across the state meeting all of our residents,” said Paul Ulrich, former president of the Petroleum Association of Wyoming and a Cheney supporter. “It’s painful for her to have these security concerns. It’s disgusting to come to this. »

Capitol Police assigned Cheney a personal security detail last August, an action taken only when members of Congress face credible security threats.

Dean “Doc” Schroeder, a registered Democrat now considering changing his registration to vote for Cheney in the GOP primary, was impressed with Cheney’s leadership during the Jan. 6 commission. He said it didn’t matter that the congresswoman was spending more time in the state given Wyoming’s overwhelming Republican majority.

“A very big part of that wouldn’t care if she came to the election on angel’s wings. They won’t vote for her,” said Schroeder, a retired psychologist and Frontier Days Rodeo volunteer. “So I don’t know if it hurt him anything. And I’m a perfect example of how her behavior in Washington helped her.

Some Cheney allies are skeptical that there will be enough Democratic cross-votes to put her at the top next month.

“I wouldn’t want to put any money on this race,” said Marilyn Kite, a former state Supreme Court justice who supports Cheney. “I really hope she makes it, but if not, maybe her keeping her oath is really more important in the long run.”

Reported Peoples of New York

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