Is Liz Cheney in primary trouble?

Jim Lo Scalzo/Pool via AP

It’s no secret that Donald Trump has been gunning for Liz Cheney ever since she voted to impeach him last year. He’s been stirring the pot ever since and he recently endorsed Republican attorney Harriet Hageman in Wyoming’s GOP primary for the state’s sole seat in the House. There are quite a few headlines making the rounds today touting a landslide victory for Hageman in a straw poll, besting Cheney by a wide margin, with some observers suggesting that the congresswoman could be in danger of losing her seat. But when you look a bit deeper into the details of this straw poll, things might not be quite as dismal for Cheney as some are making it sound. (NY Post)

A House candidate endorsed by former President Donald Trump handily defeated Rep. Liz Cheney in a Republican Party straw poll in Wyoming, ​according to a report.​

Harriet Hageman, whom Trump endorsed in September to challenge Cheney in the Republican primary, won the straw poll conducted by the Wyoming Republican State Central Committee with 59 votes, the Casper Star-Tribune reported on Saturday. ​

Cheney came in a distant second with six votes.

As you can see from the excerpt above, this wasn’t any sort of sweeping poll of Wyoming voters done by one of the established polling outfits. It was a straw poll, similar to the straw poll done at CPAC every year, and it was taken at the annual meeting of the Wyoming Republican State Central Committee. Only 65 people took part in the poll and they were all part of the same very pro-Trump committee that voted to no longer recognize Cheney as a member of the party in November. (And even that wasn’t a runaway loss for Cheney as the motion only passed by two votes.)

Trump’s choice of endorsing Hageman was kind of curious, to begin with, really. She’s now running as a complete Trump loyalist and cheerleader, but back in 2016, she was working behind the scenes to stop Donald Trump’s primary victory in Wyoming. She also called him “racist and xenophobic” at that time. But apparently, all has been forgotten and forgiven now.

I’m not saying that the straw poll is completely invalid, by the way. There have already been other indications that Liz Cheney is in political trouble. We haven’t seen any fresh polling of that race so far this year, but in December there was a Soco Strategies poll that showed Hageman beating Cheney by a 38-18 margin. There are still seven months to go before the Wyoming primary, but Cheney’s numbers are obviously far below where you would expect an incumbent to be at this point.

This race is likely to have less to do with Cheney herself than the contrast between the respect that Dick Cheney’s family has traditionally been shown in Wyoming and the popularity of Donald Trump in the state. Trump loyalists are not about to forgive her for the impeachment vote or her participation in the January 6th committee. It’s worth noting yet again that Cheney is the only Republican who agreed to serve on the committee except for Adam Kinzinger, whose popularity in conservative GOP circles these days is roughly on par with the skunk who shows up at the picnic.

By contrast, Hageman seems to be positioned fairly well. She’s never held elected office at any high level, so she doesn’t have much of a record to throw back in her face. If there were any serious scandals in her background, Cheney’s people likely would have found them and brought them to light already. As long as everyone is willing to forgive her for her anti-Trump rhetoric in 2016, she could wind up being fairly well-positioned to take the primary and Cheney’s seat in the House. And Cheney doesn’t seem to have much in the way of a counterargument. Saying, “well, you said bad things about Trump too five years ago” doesn’t make for a very compelling debate point.