Inside Trump's intense search for a Cheney challenger

During phone calls and Zoom chats, the Trump advisers have pressed the candidates on their fundraising capabilities, their policy positions and the overall strength of their campaign organizations. The goal: to determine whether they have what it takes to unseat Cheney, the influential daughter of a former vice president, who served as the No. 3 House Republican until colleagues ousted her in the spring.

The talks will escalate next week, when Trump meets with two challengers at his Bedminster, N.J., golf club: state Rep. Chuck Gray and attorney Darin Smith. Trump’s son, Don, Jr., who earlier this year visited Wyoming to speak out against Cheney for supporting his father’s impeachment, is expected to be present at the meetings…

The behind-the-scenes talks underscore the high stakes confronting Trump, who has made unseating Cheney a priority since she blamed him for inciting the Jan. 6 Capitol riot and voted to impeach him. The outcome of the contest — and Trump’s ability to shape it — will be a key measure of Trump’s post-presidential dominance over the Republican Party.

“The Wyoming race is the highest priority of the cycle. It’s a must-win for President Trump. I hope he fully understands that because it’s an undeniable fact,” said Christopher Ekstrom, a major GOP donor overseeing a super PAC that’s expected to get involved in the effort to unseat Cheney.