Take this with a grain of salt because it’s obviously in Team Trump’s interest for everyone to believe that Cheney’s a dead duck in 2022. There’s a Senate trial coming up, after all. If she’s 33 points behind a no-name challenger, that’s a powerful incentive for any Senate Republicans who might be thinking of voting to convict to think again.
Although … there aren’t any Senate Republicans up for reelection soon who were thinking of voting to convict, so why would Trump need a new poll to scare them? Of the seven who might vote against him, only Lisa Murkowski is on the ballot in 2022. And for various reasons unique to Alaska, Murkowski will be the hardest Republican to unseat.
So I don’t think this poll is chiefly aimed at the Senate trial. It’s aimed at congressional Republicans broadly, going forward: Do not cross Donald Trump. Your career depends on it.
According to a memo outlining the results, 73 percent of Republican voters and 62 percent of all voters in Wyoming expressed an unfavorable view of the three-term congresswoman. Just 10 percent of Republican primary voters and 13 percent of general election voters said they would vote to reelect her. The survey of 500 likely voters, which was conducted Jan. 25-26 by Trump pollster John McLaughlin, also presents Cheney as profoundly weak in a Republican primary. The congress member trails 54 percent to 21 percent in a head-to-head matchup against one of her announced opponents, state Sen. Anthony Bouchard…
The former president registers a 70 percent favorability rating in the state, the same share of the vote he received in the 2020 election. Among Republican voters, Trump has an 85 percent favorable figure.
Cheney’s many powerful friends will spend the next two years quietly begging Trump not to drum up a primary challenger to her, reminding him that that could backfire on him in 2024 if he decides to run again. Reuniting the party won’t be easy; if he declares war on the Cheneyites over impeachment, the Cheneyites will boycott his next presidential campaign. There aren’t a lot of them left but there are enough to make the difference potentially in a tight presidential election. Remember that Ronna McDaniel, Trump’s handpicked RNC chief, has reportedly been nudging people behind the scenes to go easy on Cheney. I’ll bet there’s plenty of that lobbying happening with the former president too.
If he does decide to try to nuke her, though, he needs to smart about it. *One* primary challenger can beat her. A dozen primary challengers jumping in is a recipe for disaster:
The poll also illustrated how a rush of primary challengers could ultimately end up playing into Cheney’s hands, creating a crowded field that would splinter the vote against her. Cheney performed slightly better when the poll tested a three-way Republican primary between Cheney, Bouchard and state Rep. Chuck Gray, a Republican who isn’t yet running. The survey showed Cheney and Gray at 19 percent and Bouchard at 29 percent.
A 33-point deficit dips to a 10-point deficit with two challengers in the race, and doubtless that would change dramatically once the well-funded Cheney machine went to work attacking Gray and Bouchard. A friend who’s worked in politics for a long time told me today that he’s skeptical she’ll end up being ousted in the end. The establishment always (well, usually) wins, after all, and there’s plenty of residual goodwill in Wyoming for the Cheney family, he reminded me. Of the 10 Republicans who voted to impeach, she’s the biggest target — but she’s likely also the most resilient.
How many of the other nine will still be members of Congress in 2023, though? Will even half of them be back? Will any?
I know one guy who’s already contemplating a career as a private citizen again:
“I did it knowing full well it could very well be terminal to my career,” [Adam] Kinzinger said of his [impeachment] vote. “But I also knew that I couldn’t live with myself having, you know, try to just protect it and just felt like the one time I was called to do a really tough duty, I didn’t do it.”…
Kinzinger had been considering “a statewide path” in late 2020, he told Axelrod, “but everything changed on January 6.”
“I’m more passionate about this country than I think I was January 5, even,” he continued. “I know my passion is the restoration of the Republican Party. I know I may go down fighting like that.”
One thing about Kinzinger is that he’s really owned his position over the last month, not just casting a vote for impeachment on the 13th but speaking out frequently against the “stop the steal” campaign. He must have been tempted by the idea of going into hiding, never saying a word publicly in hopes that Trump fans would have short memories and would let him slide for voting against the former president after a spell. But that would have been foolish. Having failed the ultimate loyalty test, there was no avoiding a primary in 2022 in which his impeachment vote would be front and center. In which case, he might as well speak his mind, try to earn people’s grudging respect for having refused to back down, and accept the verdict of the voters. Worst-case scenario is that he’s tossed out and remembered as a guy with political and moral courage, which is more than what one can say for nearly all of his colleagues.