Most of the prognostication regarding the legislative branch in this year’s elections has been focused on the Senate. If the Democrats can somehow flip three seats and win the White House, they would have pulled off the trifecta in terms of controlling the government. But that’s not at all a sure thing at this point. If President Trump can pull off another run of the swing states (which is currently looking increasingly likely) the down-ballot races could just as easily go the other way, potentially increasing the GOP’s majority in the upper chamber.
But what about in the House? The Democrats picked up a healthy margin for their majority in 2018, but every one of those freshmen are up for election again in November and that pendulum can just as easily swing back the other way. And if it does, Speaker Pelosi will have to relinquish the gavel yet again. But who would she be handing it to? At least in some circles, there’s a growing belief that it might wind up being Liz Cheney. (The Hill)
Rep. Liz Cheney’s (R-Wyo.) unexpected decision to forgo a Senate bid has GOP colleagues speculating she has ambitions beyond her No. 3 post among House Republicans.
While many GOP lawmakers were surprised that Cheney opted against running to replace outgoing Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), particularly with her strong polling numbers, several argued that staying in the House offers her a quicker path to the top.
“She has more power and voice here. [She’s] angling to be Speaker if the top two can’t pull it off,” one GOP lawmaker said, adding that the House is “a shorter route to meaningful power than Senate backbench.”
Last May, when Mike Enzi announced that he was retiring at the end of this term, I wrote about Liz Cheney’s role in the drama to come. There was immediate speculation that Cheney might run to replace him because she’d previously tried to primary him out of his seat. But if she’d done that she would basically be starting over at the bottom of the power ladder in the Senate.
That’s probably what caused her to take a pass early and write a very nice love letter to Enzi, commending him for his many years of service to the people of Wyoming. Why give up all of the power she’s built in the House for a position on the backbench in the Senate?
The rapid rate of Liz Cheney’s rise to power in the House came as a surprise to many in the punditry community, myself included. In just three short years she’s gone from being a freshman who didn’t know where the ladies’ room was located to holding the third most powerful position in the House GOP structure. But does she have her eyes on something even bigger?
The Hill reminds us that when Cheney announced her decision not to run for Enzi’s seat, she publicly stated that her goal was to help retake the House majority and “help make House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy the next Speaker.” That was clearly the right thing to say at the time, but that was then and this is now. The linked report also quotes several Republican lawmakers as saying that a rhetorical “knife fight” could break out between McCarthy, Steve Scalise and God only knows who else if they retake the majority. And if that’s the case, Cheney could be seen as a politically savvy alternate choice. It also wouldn’t hurt the GOP’s national image to put a woman in the top role.
And after that, then what? I can’t find any record of the words actually passing her lips, but few seem to doubt that Cheney pictures herself as a possible presidential contender… possibly the first woman president. In 2024 she’ll be 57 years old, a veritable spring chicken compared to everyone with any feasible hope of being president next year. Nikki Haley should probably keep an eye on Cheney. That pairing could potentially be the centerpiece of the 2024 GOP primary battle.