Wyoming poll: With one month to go, Cheney trails by 22

Jim Bourg/Pool via AP

In late May, an internal poll found her down 30 points to Trump-backed Harriet Hageman. A few weeks later, a different internal poll had her behind by 28 points. Today’s new poll from the Casper Star Tribune sees her trailing by 22.

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She’s closing the gap!

I kid, sort of. Cheney’s defeat is assured but there’s a chance that it’ll be narrower than expected, especially now that her campaign is actively encouraging Democrats to turn out on her behalf.

There aren’t enough Dems in the country’s reddest state to completely erase a deficit this large, though.

The Star Tribune has it Hageman 52, Cheney 30, with the incumbent around 40 points underwater in job approval. Among independents who plan to vote in the GOP primary, her approval stands at 29 percent. Among Dems who plan to do so, it’s just 53 percent, evidence that Cheney’s conservative record (and parentage?) make voting for her a bridge too far for many liberals who otherwise appreciate her work to hold Trump accountable for trying to overturn the election.

In fact, Cheney has nowhere near unanimous support among Democrats who intend to cross over and vote in the Republican primary. She takes 69 percent of that group, which suggests there’s a bloc of Dems who are either pro-Trump or devoutly anti-Cheney for other reasons and eager to use this opportunity to oust her from American politics.

She surely knew when she agreed to serve on the January 6 committee that it would be the nail in her coffin electorally. The Star Tribune’s data confirms that.

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Given a choice between Cheney and a candidate who’ll tell voters lies that make them happy, Wyoming’s preference is clear.

Some locals continue to hold out hope that the incumbent might pull off a miracle. Susan Stubson’s husband Tim challenged Cheney in the 2016 House GOP primary, accusing her of being out of touch with a state she hasn’t lived in for much of her life. Now Stubson calls her “a lifeline to sanity” and believes there are enough likeminded Wyomingites to carry Cheney to a momentous upset:

But our state’s politics are more nuanced than Mr. Trump’s margins of victory suggest. Here, relationships and results matter. Ms. Cheney might hold onto her seat if she’s able to cobble together a coalition of forgotten moderates and crossover Democrats in the open primary just large enough to push her across the finish line.

Those quieter moderates — many of whom cannot stomach engaging with the bully extremists who often prominently display guns on their hips during party meetings — view Ms. Cheney as a champion, a courageous renegade who places country over party. The moderates speak less, but they vote.

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We’ll see about that. I’d guess that the odds of Cheney losing by 50 points are considerably better than the odds of her beating Hageman.

There is one metric in which Cheney is utterly crushing her challenger, though — fundraising. Admiring donors have showered her with cash for her crusade against Trump, and not just admiring Republican donors. She’s raking in big bucks from Democrats who recoil from Cheney’s policy preferences but respect her for sacrificing her career to try to spoil the GOP’s romance with an authoritarian.

“We agree on little, if anything,” [film producer Jeffrey] Katzenberg said in an interview. “But she has done something that very, very few people in history have done, which is she’s put her country over party and politics to stand in defense of our Constitution.”…

To help Ms. Cheney bolster her chances in Wyoming’s upcoming Republican primary — she is facing a Trump-backed opponent — Mr. Katzenberg and his wife have donated more than $43,000 to her campaign and groups supporting her…

“Cheney is the most important politician in America right now,” said Dmitri Mehlhorn, a political strategist who advises the LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman, a major Democratic donor whom Mr. Mehlhorn said had quietly begun supporting Ms. Cheney.

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Those donors aren’t going to save her in her Wyoming primary. But if she ends up running for president in the 2024 GOP primary to make the case against Trump, her new connections will help bankroll a lot of attack ads. She and the Dems are aligned electorally, after all, even if they’re poles apart on policy: Neither believes the country can survive a second Trump term and both are prepared to see a Democrat elected if that’s what it takes to prevent that. Cheney’s campaign will be about softening Trump up ahead of the general election by trying to convince centrist Republicans that they can’t vote for him in good conscience if he’s the nominee.

Where things will get tricky for her is if Trump ends up with a real contest courtesy of Ron DeSantis. By insisting on running herself, Cheney would risk siphoning off anti-Trump votes that would otherwise go to the governor. On the other hand, by dropping out and endorsing DeSantis, she’d probably do him more harm than good. (“DeSantis is the Never Trumpers’ candidate!”) Her best play to wound Trump might be to run but to make clear from the outset that she’s not asking Republicans to vote for her, only for them not to vote for you-know-who. E.g., “Any of the other candidates on this debate stage would make a fine nominee but former President Trump has proved that he’s no longer fit for office.”

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But that’s down the road. As for the upcoming primary with Hageman, since Cheney is destined to lose, I’d prefer to see her lose 100-0 than 55-45. The GOP in its current incarnation doesn’t deserve her; the more garish the margin of her defeat, the more clarifying it’ll be about how far her priorities and the party’s have diverged.

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