It should go without saying that Liz Cheney isn’t Brian Kemp.
Although I can understand why her supporters are clinging to the thin reed of hope provided by Georgia this week.
Trump’s multiple losses in high-profile primaries have Cheney supporters in Wyoming convinced that he’s now a paper tiger. Trump-backed candidates have lost recently in Georgia, Nebraska, North Carolina and next door in Idaho. In Pennsylvania, his first choice in the Senate GOP primary exited the race after a scandal, and his second choice is mired in a recount…
[Local GOP leader] JOE MCGINLEY told Playbook that as a Cheney supporter, he’s been watching Trump’s losses pile up and learning some “lessons.”
“In some states, an endorsement helps, but it’s not the definitive action for the particular candidate,” he said. “Here in Wyoming, I would never bet against a Cheney.”
I would definitely bet against a Cheney in this case, even in Wyoming. The first key difference between her and Kemp is the nature of the states they represent. Georgia is 50/50 and Democrats have nominated a serious challenger for governor in Stacey Abrams. If Republicans there screwed around in the primaries and nominated a weak candidate like David Perdue, they might very well fumble away the state’s top office.
Whereas Wyoming is the most Republican state in America. Conservatives there can nominate anyone they like for any office with absolute certainty that they’ll retain that seat. There’s no incumbency advantage for Cheney as there was for Kemp.
The other key difference is their respective antagonism towards Trump. For all the nastiness Trump has directed at Kemp, the governor was hyper-disciplined about not responding in kind. As recently as this week he made a point of telling reporters that he’s not mad at Trump even if Trump is mad at him. “As it became clear to us that he was not going to move on, we made a determination that, if you want to win an election, we are going to have to have people who like Trump also like us,” said a Kemp aide to CNN about Trump’s vendetta. “We had to give Trump supporters permission to like both of them.”
Cheney doesn’t care about giving them that permission. In fact, I suspect she’d say that it’s not a matter of voters liking her and Trump, it’s a matter of them having to choose between Trump and the Constitution. She’s going to hold him accountable for dereliction of duty following the 2020 election in the hope and expectation that Republicans will prioritize their loyalty to America’s civic tradition over their loyalty to Trump.
She’ll be sorely disappointed. The Club for Growth has been polling the race and claims challenger Harriet Hageman is running away with it:
The poll, which provides perhaps the starkest illustration yet of the political peril Cheney faces this year, shows Wyoming attorney Harriet Hageman garnering 56 percent of the vote to Cheney’s 26 percent in the GOP primary. A third Republican got 12 percent support, and just 6 percent are undecided…
The polling reinforces another piece of data the Club for Growth released a year ago, which showed that 52 percent of Wyoming GOP primary voters were planning to vote against Cheney regardless of who challenges her.
Only six percent are undecided while another 12 percent are backing a different challenger in the MAGA mold who didn’t get Trump’s endorsement, which Hageman did. If those voters end up tilting to Hageman in the end, her margin of victory could approach 50 points.
The only chance Cheney has is to capitalize on Wyoming’s law allowing for same-day re-registration by members of the other party. Conceivably, every Democrat in the state could re-register as a Republican on primary day and vote for Cheney, giving her a fighting chance at forming a victorious coalition of Dems and centrist Republicans. (Democratic crossovers may have helped push Brad Raffensperger over the 50 percent mark in Georgia.) But the Club for Growth poll accounted for that possibility: “A spokesperson for the group said that sample size includes not only frequent GOP voters, but also new voters and those who identify as Democrats or independents but intend to vote in the GOP primary.”
So Cheney’s cooked, even if a few Dems try to ride to her rescue.
And she knows it, I’m sure. I suspect her strategy in this race consists of two steps: (1) Hurt Trump among swing voters ahead of 2024 by framing this primary as a referendum on the rule of law versus authoritarianism, knowing which side Trump and MAGA will enthusiastically take, and (2) run against him for the Republican nomination in 2024 and use the spotlight that provides her to reiterate that case to those swing voters. Cheney’s on a mission now to keep Trump out of the White House, nothing more or less. If she cared about saving her career, she would have laid low after voting for impeachment like eight of the other nine Republicans who joined her did. (Adam Kinzinger is the lone exception and he’s retiring, of course.)
She’s going down, in other words, but she’s going down swinging. Which brings us to this clip from yesterday, her announcement that she’s running for reelection and will contest this primary. Some had speculated that she might follow Kinzinger’s lead and retire but that would have deprived her of the opportunity to take the first step I described above. “When I know something is wrong, I will say so… I won’t surrender to pressure or intimidation,” she says at one point here. She really is a wild mismatch with her party.
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