Three polls: Republicans strongly support ousting Liz Cheney from leadership

AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

Does this count as “news”? Even Cheney’s under no illusions about which side most GOP voters are on. “The majority of the Republican Party is not where I am,” she told ABC yesterday.

Which turns out to be an understatement.

You can take your pick of which data to believe here although it’s all pointing in the same direction. A few days ago Morning Consult asked if Cheney should be kept on as a caucus leader or dumped. Result:

YouGov asked the same question but took the extra step of nudging respondents about why Cheney was being removed, “because she has criticized former President Trump’s claim that the 2020 election was stolen from him.” They got a stronger reaction:

CBS asked the question as well and found even more lopsided results among people who had been following the Cheney saga:

Two takeaways from those polls, one obvious and the other less obvious but provocative. Liz Cheney is clearly in a lot of trouble with her reelection bid, assuming she stands any meaningful chance at all of winning. And across every poll there are 15-20 percent of Republicans who are sympathetic to her, and who could make trouble for the GOP if even a small fraction of them peel off in 2022 or 2024. My guess is that nearly all stick with the party in the midterms, but whether they’d stick with it for Trump 3.0 three years from now is an open question.

Explanations for why Cheney had to go vary among Republicans in Congress. Most will tell you that she was simply too often off-message, looking backward at the election instead of forward to the midterm fight against Biden. That is, allegedly, it wasn’t the content of her criticism of Trump that was so troubling but the basic fact that she was focused on the wrong target. CBS put that to the test in its poll, though, asking Republicans why they thought Cheney deserved to be booted. Sixty-nine percent agreed that it’s because she was off-message — but 57 percent said it’s because she was wrong about the election.

When asked whether Biden was the legitimate winner last November, 67 percent of GOPers said no compared to just 33 percent who said yes. So maybe ousting her was a little bit about the content of Cheney’s criticism. A certain someone noticed that result and trumpeted it last night in a post on his new blog: “The poll also showed that 67% of Republicans said that they do not consider Sleepy Joe Biden to be the legitimate winner of the 2020 Presidential Election. I agree with them 100%, just look at the facts and the data—there is no way he won the 2020 Presidential Election!”

The idea that Liz Cheney or anyone else is unfit for leadership if they can’t stop talking about the election is about to face an interesting new test next month:

Former President Trump is expected to resume his signature rallies in June, an adviser confirmed, the latest sign of him becoming increasingly visible and ramping up political activity since leaving office in January.

The New York Post and Daily Mail first reported on tentative plans for the rallies, which are expected to include two appearances in June and one at the beginning of July. The events are likely to be similar to the airport rallies that Trump held last year as he campaigned for reelection during the coronavirus pandemic. The events have not been formally announced.

Five days ago Kevin McCarthy responded to Cheney’s criticism by claiming that no one was questioning the legitimacy of the election, an observation that somehow failed to take into account the daily comments on the subject from the undisputed leader of the party. McCarthy can pretend to ignore Trump’s blog statements, just like he pretended for years to ignore his tweets. But Trump holding rallies to push “stop the steal” lies is going to make that harder. The one thing he and Liz Cheney have in common is that they both want to talk about the election whereas McCarthy and the rest of the House GOP caucus emphatically don’t. I can understand why Cheney wouldn’t want to accommodate them on that but I can’t understand why Trump wouldn’t, except that it’s a compulsion for him at this point.

By the way, one of the few Republicans in elected office who actively disputed allegations that the election was rigged announced today that he’ll be leaving government soon. It would have been the easiest thing in the world for Geoff Duncan to advance his career, particularly at Brian Kemp’s expense, by going along with claims of vote-stealing in Georgia. It’s a testament to his character that he refused:

Here’s one last very arresting bit of poll data from CBS:

You can read that in two ways. One is as a straightforward reflection of the fact that most Republicans believe the election was stolen. If you think your guy won and was cheated, there’s no need for you to rethink any policies or change your message. Just target the alleged cheating and rerun the same playbook next time. The grimmer interpretation, though, is that Republicans have accepted that they’re no longer a majority party — they’ve lost every national popular vote since 1992 save one — and have shifted to overtly anti-democratic methods of clinging to power. There’s no point in doing anything different policy-wise or message-wise since they’re going to lose anyway; their best play is to engage in whatever voter suppression they can get away with and hope to keep squeaking out electoral college wins.

I’ll leave you with Cheney in one of her many TV appearances over the past few days.