In an interview last week after a town hall-style meeting at the county fairgrounds here, a few feet from a plaque marking the site of Mr. Cheney’s first political speech, Mr. Enzi revealed that Ms. Cheney told him this year that she was thinking about challenging him in 2014. “She called me and said that she’s looking at it,” he said. And did Ms. Cheney ask Mr. Enzi, now in his third term, if he was planning to run again? “No,” Mr. Enzi said…“I know of no one who doesn’t want Mike Enzi to run for the Senate again,” said Douglas W. Chamberlain, a former Wyoming House speaker. Mr. Enzi noted with a soft chuckle, “There’s at least one person out there who wants me to retire.” … But Mr. Enzi said he had not recently heard from the man he calls his “good friend” [speaking of the former Vice President]. “I would expect that he’d call before she declares,” Mr. Enzi said of Mr. Cheney.
Before she declares. It doesn’t sound like Enzi is under any illusions about what’s probably coming his way next year. Read the full Times piece for a glimpse at how key players within the Wyoming GOP are lining up behind the incumbent, even as they take great pains to avoid crossing the well-respected Cheney family. Also, don’t miss the laughably hyperbolic warning from former Wyoming Sen. Alan Simpson about how a primary challenge from Cheney could tear the party asunder and hand Democrats the keys to the state. (Highly unlikely). For his part, the 69-year-old Enzi just nabbed a plum committee assignment and telegraphs no intention of retiring. Over at Townhall, I’ve sketched out the contours of a hypothetical Enzi-Cheney primary contest:
What makes this potential internecine contest unusual is that Enzi is generally regarded as a conservative in good standing. This isn’t a typical “RINO hunt.” He’s earned a 93 percent lifetime rating from the American Conservative Union, and has matched the average Senate Republican score from Heritage Action. Enzi recently voted against the ‘Gang of Eight’ immigration legislation. Jonathan Martin speculatesthat Cheney would run to Enzi’s right on policy issues like the internet sales tax (which has split conservatives), while quietly taking up his left flank on gay marriage. More than anything, an Enzi-Cheney race would come down to a battle over style and parochial concerns. Cheney would paint herself as a fresh, invigorated conservative, willing to go to Washington and aggressively oppose the Obama agenda. As Martin’s piece notes, she might also cite the modern-era tradition that no Wyoming Senator has served more than three terms. Enzi’s supporters could respond with accusations of carpetbagging and nepotism. They may tread lightly, though, as to avoid offending the well-liked Cheney family.
Cheney for Senate upsides: She’s a sharp, young, tenacious, conservative woman whose candidacy would drive the Left batty. Cheney for Senate downsides: Is it wise to primary a reliable, if understated, conservative over largely stylistic differences? I’ll leave you with a bonus upside, via Allahpundit. Admit it, this political theater would be engrossing: “Imagine the floor arguments she and Paul would have — with Liz, ironically, sometimes defending Obama’s positions as Paul inevitably makes the isolationist case against them. Endless blogworthy content.” Indeed. But irresistible fodder for the righty blogosphere isn’t necessarily aligned with the best interests of the Republican Party or the conservative movement.
Update (AP): As Guy noted, a Liz Cheney run interests me mainly because it would theoretically bring a new full-throated superhawk to the Senate at a moment when the GOP’s tilting a tiny bit more isolationist. Right now Rubio’s the closest thing to a superhawk from the new crop of Senators, but (a) Rubio doesn’t want to embrace that role too much lest it complicate things for him in 2016 and (b) Rubio’s hawkishness sometimes seems less part of a particular foreign-policy vision and more an adjunct of his overarching “America’s the greatest” message. (“America’s the greatest, therefore we need to use our unique influence and Midas touch to help spread democracy in Syria.”) Liz Cheney would embrace the hawk role in a way Rubio wouldn’t, which is why I’m eager to see her and Rand Paul engage and eager to see how the party reacts to a new generation of Cheneys in positions of influence. But all politics is local, so the Wyoming race is going to turn on stuff like the Internet sales tax and Mike Enzi’s “long” tenure in office rather than international affairs. Oh well.
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