Prediction time: What will the margin of defeat be in Cheney's primary tomorrow night?

AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

Lately my gut’s been telling me 70/30. That’s Hageman +40.

But this WaPo piece has convinced me at the eleventh hour that there really will be meaningful Democratic turnout on Cheney’s behalf. Not meaningful enough to win but meaningful enough perhaps to put the most garish margins out of reach. So maybe … 65/35? Hageman +30?

If Liz gets any closer than a 20-point loss I’ll consider it a moral victory.

On Jan. 1, Republicans had more than 196,000 registered voters, while Democrats had about 46,000. By Aug. 1, Republicans gained 11,000 new voters while Democrats lost 6,000 and those voters unaffiliated with either party dropped by 2,000.

Teton County, traditionally the only liberal-leaning spot in Wyoming, now has more registered Republicans than Democrats, and voters can switch parties up until Tuesday’s primary.

The Teton County clerk, Maureen Murphy, reported a stunning tilt in early voting toward Republicans: 3,259 votes have been cast in the GOP primaries by the end of Friday, and just 166 came in the Democratic contests.

Wyoming’s libs — all six of them — are switching parties and turning out for Cheney. It’s fascinating to think what might have been if she represented a state that Trump had won by 20 points two years ago, say, rather than 44 points. The prospect of Dick Cheney’s daughter winning reelection on the strength of massive popularity among Democrats would have been real — and surreal. But as it is, the mountain in Wyoming is too steep. She’ll have to console herself in defeat with compliments from sympathizers. “There’s not much about the Cheneys that I care for,” one Wyoming Democrat told Politico. “But her opposition [to Trump] would tell you that Liz is displaying Wyoming values. Liz is showing honesty, integrity, courage — which I always thought were traditional Wyoming values. At least they were in the Wyoming in which I grew up.”

A local Republican who used to call her a carpetbagger said to CNN, “This is not the Republican Party my dad and grandpa supported. I support Cheney because she actually supports the election results. She’s a true Republican and always has been.” He claims that many of his Democratic friends have re-registered as GOPers to vote for her tomorrow.

It won’t be enough. “She has spent many hours working on her address for Tuesday night. It will almost certainly be a concession speech,” Mark Leibovich reported last week, “but Cheney seems to view her primary more as a speed bump—and her address as a prime-time launching pad into a political future far more consequential than anything she could have achieved in Congress.” That’s the only true suspense tomorrow. What will she say? Cheney’s concession will obviously be some sort of rallying cry to Americans nationally to join her on a mission to stop Trump.

But what kind of mission?

The WaPo piece linked above claims that “Cheney and a small but influential bloc of anti-Trump Republicans have decided that there must be a 2024 candidate who will run as an unabashed opponent of both the ex-president and other contenders who spew his mistruths about the 2020 election.” Adam Kinzinger told the paper that there needs to be someone on the debate stage willing to endure the scorn of the crowd and tell them the truth about Trump. But the unhappy reality is that there’s no scenario in which that would be productive as a bottom-line matter.

If Trump runs otherwise unopposed and she jumps in to challenge him, the RNC and various state parties will end up canceling the primaries in order to deny her a platform. They’re plenty corrupt enough to do it, having pulled the same trick in some states in 2020. If instead Trump gets a primary challenge from Ron DeSantis, Cheney entering the race would siphon off anti-Trump votes from the governor. And the MAGA voters who are open to supporting DeSantis might end up holding him responsible for her attacks on Trump, recognizing that he’s the prime beneficiary of them. Cheney would end up as a stalking horse for DeSantis and he’d suffer for that among voters he needs to woo.

If she skips the primary and runs as a third-party candidate in the general election, that would be a disaster. Instead of supporting the Democratic nominee, some anti-Trump voters would park their votes with her as a conservative protest candidate. Result: Trump wins, which tends to be the result whenever he faces a crowded field. If you want to beat him, you have to clear the field for a single formidable Democratic or Republican opponent and turn the election into a referendum on him. Cheney would try to do that rhetorically if she ran but I don’t know how she’d convince people *not* to waste their vote on her as a protest candidate unless she ended up explicitly instructing them not to cast a ballot for her.

She understands the strategic complications here, though. I don’t think she’d run third-party, knowing how that would deprive the Democratic nominee of votes. On the contrary, here’s an easy call: Given how much dough she’s raked in from admiring Democratic donors, and in light of how many Dems in her home state appear ready to cross over for her tomorrow night, I think the odds are very good that she’ll speak at the 2024 Democratic convention if Trump is the GOP nominee. If that means endorsing Biden, that’s what she’ll do.

How’s that for predictions? One long-term one and another short-term one in the same post. Although the short-term one is child’s play: She’s cooked tomorrow night.

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