I repeat a point from last night: The only suspense this evening has to do with what she’ll say in her concession speech. My guess is that she loses by 30 points, and that a 50-point loss is far more likely than one in the single digits.
Whether because she’s seeking a form of political martyrdom from this outcome or because she accepted long ago that the writing is on the wall, Cheney didn’t campaign hard down the stretch. She held few public events, notes NBC, which may be related to the fact that fascists are frequently threatening to kill her. Her campaign still has millions of dollars in the bank, declining to use that money to run more ads despite the fact that airtime in Wyoming is cheap. What ads she has chosen to run have leaned into the narrative that her primary is a battle for the soul of the right between her and Trump, a foolish strategy if the goal were to win.
Kevin Williamson said it well, as he tends to do: “I do know that sometimes it is better to lose the small thing and win the big thing — and, in this case, the nomination of such a body as the Republican Party in Wyoming is the small thing. Liz Cheney already has won the big thing. The voters will pass judgment on Liz Cheney, and history will pass judgment on them. Cheney probably will have the better part of it.” She’ll lose the small thing tonight. As to the big thing — meaningfully damaging Trump’s chances at a second term — stay tuned.
I think of the Trump-era GOP as a 30/50/20 proposition. Thirty percent are fanatics who’ll support him in whatever he wants to do. If he wins a second term and asks the new Republican Congress to pass an enabling act so that he can rule by decree, the 30 percent will say that it’ll be great not to have to worry about congressional gridlock anymore. At the other pole are the 20 percent, the people like me who find all of this endlessly repulsive and would struggle to think of an unkind word to say about Cheney after she sacrificed her career to hold Trump accountable for trying to stage a coup. She committed an act of civic heroism and demonstrated honor to a downright freakish degree among American politicians. And she knows it, which I imagine is why she’s at peace with losing this race 70/30.
As for the remaining 50 percent, I find that Cheney makes an excellent litmus test in identifying them. The 50 percent aren’t Trump fanatics, as they’re forever eager to assure you, but they’re the sort of hardcore partisans who’ll vote GOP no matter what the GOP is serving up. Kari Lake, Doug Mastriano, J.D. Vance — better an autocrat with an “R” after their name than a Democrat. Ask any of these people how they feel about Cheney and you’ll find them hard-pressed to praise her even though, in theory, they broadly agree with her about Trump and January 6. The partisanship always gets in the way. Their highest allegiance is to the GOP and so, for lizard-brain reasons, they can’t allow that someone who’s spent 18 months antagonizing the head of their party and his cronies in Congress is doing an unvarnishedly noble thing. Her methods are wrong, or her messaging has been wrong, or she should have done X, Y, or Z slightly differently, yadda yadda.
It’s the 50 percent who have run this party into a ditch, not the MAGA 30 percent. If the 30 percent got a hard lesson from the 50 percent that nominating autocrats would mean electing Democrats, they’d rethink. It’s the enabling 50 percent who’ll provide the landslide margin against Cheney tonight. Never forget it.
Polls close in Wyoming at 9 p.m. ET. You can follow the returns below. There are two other big races on tap this evening and I’ve embedded the widgets for them below, but I should tell you up front that there’s no near-term suspense in either of them. Lisa Murkowski is on the ballot in Alaska’s Senate primary, but Alaska uses a quirky new ranked-choice jungle primary in which the top four candidates from either party advance to the general election in November. She and her Trump-backed opponent, Kelly Tshibaka, will both certainly make the cut. The only matter of interest in their race is their respective vote shares, which may or may not matter in the general. The House special election to fill Don Young’s seat for the remaining four months of the year is also on the ballot in Alaska, with Sarah Palin hoping to make her political comeback by winning. But don’t hold your breath for those results: Mail-in ballots will be collected through August 31, which means we likely won’t have a call in this race for the rest of the month. Check back by Labor Day to see who the new member of Congress from Alaska is.