Rep. Liz Cheney offered a bleak prediction for her Republican colleagues on the first day of the Jan. 6 House select committee hearings in June: “There will come a day when Donald Trump is gone, but your dishonor will remain,” she told them at the start of proceedings widely seen as presenting damning evidence that Trump instigated the attack on the U.S. Capitol.
Now the day is quickly approaching when Cheney may be gone — from Congress, at least — after choosing to stand up to Trump and those in the Republican Party who are willing to risk “dishonor.”
All signs point to a staggering loss for Cheney in the GOP primary for Wyoming’s lone House seat on Tuesday. A poll from the University of Wyoming released Thursday shows Cheney trailing her Trump-backed opponent, Harriet Hageman, by a gaping 30-percentage-point margin. Another poll predicted a similar blowout for Hageman, leaving little doubt that Cheney is on the path to defeat.
“She knew what the risks were when she came out and opposed the president,” Mike Madrid, a Republican co-founder of the anti-Trump Lincoln Project, told HuffPost. “Whether she thought for a short period of time that she could win a primary back home? I don’t know. But it’s no secret — and it hasn’t been for a long time — that that’s not going to happen.”
Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) has played a key role in the House select committee hearings investigating the events surrounding the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol. Now she’s headed toward electoral defeat.
In the most consequential GOP primary since Trump’s loss, you won’t find Cheney engaging in the kind of retail politics that makes or breaks tough races. Her website doesn’t list public events. She isn’t out schmoozing with ranchers in a state that gave Trump his biggest margin of victory in 2020. In a profile that acknowledges the reality of Cheney’s impending loss, The New York Times reported that the Wyoming Republican is sticking to invite-only events at people’s homes — with a security detail to ensure her safety against a stream of threats.
Cheney’s fate in Congress may be sealed, but her political future outside of the legislative branch isn’t. After raising $13 million, the three-term scion of a conservative political dynasty hasn’t ruled out running for president, a move that might pit her against her ultimate adversary, Trump, in a primary.
The race caps off an election cycle of mixed results for the 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump for instigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack at the U.S. Capitol — two have won, three have lost (Cheney could be the fourth) and the rest opted not to run for reelection. Among them, Cheney and Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) are Trump’s most visible foils. Both were censured by the Republican National Committee for helping Democrats investigate Jan. 6. Kinzinger, seeing the writing on the wall, is leaving Congress when his term is over, intending to focus on his leadership PAC and his own electoral plans.
Cheney, meanwhile, is using her primary to send a blazing message.
“America cannot remain free if we abandon the truth,” Cheney says in her campaign’s closing ad, over the swelling of orchestral music. “The lie that the 2020 election was stolen is insidious. It preys on those who love their country. It is a door Donald Trump opened to manipulate Americans to abandon their principles, to sacrifice their freedom, to justify violence, to ignore the rulings of our courts and the rule of law.”
Cheney’s father, former Vice President Dick Cheney, also filmed an commercial for the campaign blasting Trump as a “coward” and “threat to the republic,” and calling his daughter “fearless.”
Madrid noted the message isn’t for primary voters: “That’s not a Wyoming, consolidate-the-base message. That’s a full-front assault on the national GOP.”
Jim King, a political science professor at the University of Wyoming, said GOP voters decided months ago to oppose Cheney, and her high-profile role as vice chair of the Jan. 6 select committee and the evidence it presented against Trump didn’t change any minds. Cheney said the committee has uncovered evidence to warrant prosecuting Trump.
“People already had their minds made up,” he told HuffPost. “Her votes on election certification and then impeachment in January of 2021, those were the things that started the opposition rolling. It’s been there for a year and a half now. The visibility of this race has made it so that people are really set.”
Cheney’s campaign opted for an unorthodox tactic to break her ceiling: appealing to Democrats to cross party lines and vote for her against Hageman in the GOP primary. There’s anecdotal evidence it could help Cheney somewhat, but not enough to significantly alter the outcome of the race in her favor.
“People already had their minds made up.”
– University of Wyoming professor Jim King
Tim Stubson, a former Wyoming legislator who lost to Cheney in the 2016 congressional primary and is among her allies in this election, said on policy issues, there’s “virtually no daylight” between Cheney and Hageman.
“Harriet has and continues to run simply on the basis that she’ll bend her knee further toward Trump than anyone else,” Stubson said. “It’s really been that simple of a campaign — Liz betrayed the Republican Party by crossing Trump, and she’ll remain true to him.”
Hageman, who is endorsed by the Wyoming GOP, has made the case that Cheney is out of touch with Wyoming voters, 70% of whom voted for Trump in 2020.
“The people of Wyoming do not believe that they’re being represented in Congress right now because our representative doesn’t come to Wyoming, she doesn’t come here to talk to us to explain her vote to defend the decisions that she’s making. She focuses an awful lot of time on the Jan. 6 committee, but she’s not addressing the issues that are important to Wyoming,” Hageman said during a debate last month, when Cheney in turn pressed her on whether she thinks the election was stolen. Hageman said the election was “rigged” but has not focused on election denialism as a centerpiece of her campaign.
“No one who understands our nation’s laws, no one with an honest, honorable, genuine commitment to our nation’s laws would say that,” Cheney says in her closing ad about calling the 2020 election stolen and rigged. “It is a cancer that threatens our great republic.”
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