Everyone knows. Arguably, Liz Cheney launched her campaign this morning by engaging her actual constituents … the media.
Just wait to see how loyal they’ll be in the long run, though:
“I’ll make a decision in the coming months.” — Rep. Liz Cheney said about possibly running for President. pic.twitter.com/b2SjAYVN2W
— TODAY (@TODAYshow) August 17, 2022
Cheney says she wants to do everything in her power to keep Donald Trump from becoming president again. Fair enough; Cheney has several political strategies open to her to achieve that goal, including running for president herself. However, that would seem to be the least likely strategy for pursuing that goal. In the first place, Cheney doesn’t have the kind of national constituency necessary for that kind of presidential campaign launch. As last night’s election results amply demonstrate, she doesn’t even have a statewide constituency any longer.
About the only constituency Cheney has at the moment is in the media, which rallied around her this morning as a David against a GOP Goliath. Media exposure isn’t nothing, but this kind of media fawning will not impress Republican primary voters. It might impress Democrats, but there’s not a chance in Hades that Democrats will rally around a Cheney bid for the presidency. And if she expects to run as an independent, Liz Cheney’s combined draw from disaffected Democrats and Republicans will make Evan McMullin 2016 bid look like an electoral juggernaut.
And when push comes to shove, the media will turn on Cheney as just another Republican extremist, and a legacy of the Cheney brand that they demonized for the last two decades.
If Cheney wants to stop Trump, why isn’t she pursuing more obvious political strategies? The easiest of those would be to simply endorse Republican primary challengers that can defeat Trump in the primaries. There’s a real question as to whether a Cheney endorsement would help someone like Ron DeSantis or Glenn Youngkin, to name a couple of potential challengers, but they’re more likely to “stop” Trump by beating him to the nomination than a Liz Cheney challenge. Cheney could alternatively find less-well-known names to move into consideration for the nomination — maybe Nikki Haley, for instance.
Those opportunities would create real potential to “stop Trump” through the political process. However, they wouldn’t afford nearly the same self-promotional opportunities for Cheney to exploit as the media’s Trump martyr du jour. Her self-comparisons to Abraham Lincoln and Ulysses S. Grant make it clear that Cheney has a very inflated view of herself, which admittedly is no bar to higher office, but also of the esteem she demands from everyone on the basis of … not much other than joining Nancy Pelosi’s January 6 committee.
And that’s a big problem for Cheney in attempting any kind of comeback after this crushing electoral rejection in Wyoming. Voters might not have resented Cheney’s hyperfocus on the committee effort if it had been structured properly in the first place — as a balanced select committee, or even one in which Republicans could appoint their own members as had happened in every previous instance. Pelosi blocked Kevin McCarthy from choosing the members of the committee, however, and it ended up being a one-sided affair that made the hearings into hearsay show trials. It’s a mess, and Cheney has a significant share of responsibility for making it so.
Voters won’t resent politicking to “stop Trump” by defeating him for the 2024 GOP nomination. They will, however, resent the use of quasi-prosecutorial processes to corrupt that choice, and that’s what the January 6 committee clearly has in mind. All that and the DoJ’s raid on Mar-a-Lago has done is increased the sense of unfairness of these proceedings and made Trump back into the center of politics. And all of that has made it more likely that Trump will win the 2024 nomination, not less. Cheney’s bloody-mindedness is entirely counterproductive to her stated goals.
But at least it got her some media exposure this morning. That appears to be the only rational goal Cheney has in mind.