Rand Paul: I'll do anything I can to help Mike Enzi defeat Liz Cheney

I thought we’d have to wait for Cheney to win the primary before looking forward to her brawling with Paul. Nope. The battle is joined.

Two words, my friends: Traffic goldmine.

“I’ve told him I’ll do anything I can to help him,” the Kentucky GOP senator said. “In fact, somebody asked me today if they could use my name, and I said I’d be happy to sign on and do a fundraiser for him.”…

“I don’t think it probably will be helpful in the long run. I’m pretty sure Senator Enzi will be able to hold off against any primary challenge,” Paul said. “In doing so there will be some people that won’t be so happy with the primary challenge, that might bear grudges.”…

“Mike Enzi has probably been to every town in Wyoming. He’s the kind of guy who spends the time to get to know people in a town of 600 people, he’s been there,” Paul said. “And I think that’s going to be difficult for someone who’s new to the state to get to meet the same people with the same degree of personal relationship that he’s been able develop with the people in Wyoming.”

Among his colleagues in the Senate, Paul said he’s heard “nothing but support” for the 69-year-old senator.

From the great anti-establishment hope three years ago to key booster for Mitch McConnell’s and Mike Enzi’s reelection campaigns now. That’s not the first time he’s swiped at Cheney for carpetbagging, either. The day after she announced, he mused, “When I heard Liz Cheney was running for Senate I wondered if she was running in her home state of Virginia.” That, and not her hawkish foreign policy, will be his big line of attack on her as an Enzi surrogate, I assume, just because it’s a lot harder to predict how an argument over interventionism will shake out in a GOP primary than how an argument over whether the candidate’s really a native or not will play. By the same token, I wonder if Cheney will refrain from attacking Enzi as an ally of isolationism by dint of his Paul endorsement in order to focus on intangibles instead. Case in point: Via the Corner, watch her accuse Enzi in the clip below of being “confused” and “mixed up” about whether she told him that she intended to challenge him if he ran for reelection. That’s a wink-wink nod at his age, which is part of the “new generation” theme of her campaign. Better to hit him on that and appeal to local tea partiers to support her in the interest of fresh faces in D.C. than start a fight over foreign policy whose outcome among conservatives is uncertain. (Enzi, by the way, is 69. When her dad, whose health problems are well known, finally left office after spending eight years a heartbeat away from controlling America’s nuclear arsenal, he was just shy of turning 68.)

This is, in other words, shaping up to be a hawks/doves Cheney/Paul proxy war that oddly doesn’t delve too deeply into the wisdom of interventionism but rather sticks with mostly “meta” debates about healthy limits on incumbency, dynastic politics, who’s really “establishment,” and how much Republican senators should be willing to compromise with Democrats. (Liz Cheney would compromise with them on gay marriage, wouldn’t she?) Or at least that’s how it’ll be at the beginning. If Paul helps Enzi neutralize tea-party support for Cheney so that he ends up holding a steady lead, maybe Cheney will have no choice but to try to turn it into a foreign policy dispute and gamble that grassroots conservatives will take her side over Paul’s. I wonder too if there are any other prominent tea-party pols out there who’ll be willing to join Paul on Team Enzi. Paul has a strong incentive to get involved here, not only in striking a symbolic blow against neoconservatism but in taking revenge on Dick Cheney for endorsing his opponent in the Kentucky primary three years ago. No one else in the Senate is in that same position; Ted Cruz, for instance, will likely tread lightly given that there’s already some support for Cheney among his tea-party base. What you’ll end up seeing, I assume, is a few GOP senators backing Enzi out of personal friendship and a few national Republicans who are Dick Cheney allies headed into Wyoming to drum up support for her, with virtually everyone else waiting as long as possible to commit or staying out altogether. That’s okay, though. The Paul/Cheney fight is exciting enough without any need for an undercard.

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David Strom 6:01 PM on February 01, 2023