This will be the second most entertaining primary in the country next year behind only the battle o’ the bottom-feeders in the Ohio Senate race.
Trump’s been weighing his endorsement in Wyoming for months as one lackluster little-known populist after another has jumped into the race hoping to earn his favor as the anointed Cheney-destroyer. Today he settled on Harriet Hageman, a shrewd choice in that she has both connections in the state and (some) name recognition. She ran for governor in the 2018 GOP primary and pulled more than 20 percent of the vote. Since then she’s been Wyoming’s national GOP committeewoman on the RNC, a position she left two days ago in anticipation of jumping into the race and challenging Cheney with Trump’s support.
Today he made it official.
NEW: Trump endorses Harriet Hageman, a primary challenger to GOP Rep. Liz Cheney, who he calls "disloyal" and "the Democrats number one provider of sound bites." pic.twitter.com/i15snPNxoL
— Andrew Solender (@AndrewSolender) September 9, 2021
There was news last week that Colorado’s proposed redistricting map will move MAGA diehard Lauren Boebert into the same district as Dem Rep. Joe Neguse, a potential career-killer for her since the new district lines encompass a number of liberal areas. With Boebert facing all but certain defeat, it occurred to me: Why shouldn’t she resign from Congress ASAP, call up Trump, and offer to move to Wyoming and establish residency to primary Cheney in exchange for his endorsement? She has way more name recognition among Republican primary voters than Hageman does.
To which you might say, “Wyoming voters wouldn’t choose a carpetbagging Coloradan over Cheney.” Uh, sure they would. MAGA all-stars who are ubiquitous in conservative media like Matt Gaetz, Marjorie Taylor Greene, and Boebert don’t really represent particular districts so much as they represent a particular cultural cohort among the Republican base. Lauren Boebert’s electoral chances don’t depend on how much she’s done for her district in Colorado, they depend on her being one of the rootin’-est, tootin’-est Trumpers in Congress. That’s all it takes to be popular with righty populists, so why should it matter whether she runs in Colorado or Wyoming? Especially since the Wyoming primary will end up as a pure referendum on Cheney’s anti-Trumpism, not a choice between Cheney and whoever else ends up on the ballot opposite her.
But oh well. Boebert wasn’t fast enough so Hageman is Trump’s choice. And Cheney’s staying on brand by broadcasting her defiance:
Here’s a sound bite for you: Bring it. pic.twitter.com/VmET1JUs12
— Liz Cheney (@Liz_Cheney) September 9, 2021
Trump has now endorsed primary challenges to four of the 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach him in January, but only one has invited him to “bring it.” Although I expect Adam Kinzinger will too once Trump gets around to choosing his opponent.
Cheney released a statement this morning about Trump’s endorsement with some interesting language:
The reference to certain someones having sacrificed their principles is an allusion to the fact that she and Hageman are, or were, friends. “Hageman, a property rights attorney, was formerly a close Cheney ally,” the Casper Star Tribune reports. “She worked on the leadership team of both her 2013 Senate race and 2016 House race, in addition to donating a total of $2,000 to both those races combined.” In other words, Hageman is filling the same niche in this race that Jane Timken has filled in the Ohio Senate primary, that of a through-and-through establishmentarian who’s cynically remade themselves as MAGA because they realize that the path to Congress runs through kissing Trump’s ass.
I don’t know about Timken’s chances against Josh Mandel and J.D. Vance, but I like Hageman’s.
The first order of business for her and Trump is clearing the field of other primary challengers, as having a number of challengers in the race would risk splitting the populist vote and giving Cheney a path to victory with, say, 30 percent. Presumably that won’t be too hard, though: What’s the point of running as a true blue MAGA alternative to Cheney knowing Hageman will be running in the same lane with Trump’s endorsement? Some primary hopefuls were already sounding salty, however, about the likelihood of being passed over when Trump’s endorsement of Hageman leaked yesterday:
The Republican Establishment creeps around Trump are really bad. They are pushing him to make bad decisions, because they still don’t understand why Trump won in 2016. Sad.
— Catharine O’Neill (@cathponeill) September 8, 2021
O’Neill writes for Newsmax, the NYT notes, yet she got outmaneuvered in the Trump endorsement sweepstakes by someone with far less populist cred. For Trump, this is about beating Cheney, not sending a populist to Congress. If Hageman was his strongest option then that’s whom he was going to choose.
I’ll leave you with this statement from Wyoming Sen. Cynthia Lummis, who held the state’s House seat before Cheney succeeded her. Trump claimed in his statement this morning that Hageman had Lummis’s “support,” which implied an endorsement. There’s no endorsement (yet) but she clearly doesn’t want to be on the wrong side of the Trump/Cheney throwdown in her state.
Prior story here: https://t.co/pa6mhVKMIK
Lummis statement here 👇 pic.twitter.com/8wpxOYayHm
— Marc Caputo (@MarcACaputo) September 9, 2021