JACKSON, Wyo.– Supporters of Rep. Liz Cheney have mixed feelings about the brutal defeat likely to await her in Tuesday’s Republican primary: resignation over her fate, pride in standing up to the former President Donald Trump at a personal cost and hope that she will regain a more prominent place in national politics.
There are few visible signs that Cheney is even trying to earn a new nomination on the background of the ballot showing that she trails her main challenger, Harriet Hageman, by 57% to 28%.
Residents say she has appeared in public a few times in recent weeks — to meet with members of the Jewish community, for example — but her campaign had no public events scheduled over the weekend or Monday. On Saturday, in a rally more befitting a race for city council than one of the most closely watched congressional races in recent political history, a dozen of his supporters waved Cheney signs in front of passing cars on the town square. No trace of the candidate.
On television, Cheney’s commercials focus on her fight with Trump — the apostasy that has alienated her from most GOP voters here and across the country. Cheney, the third-ranking Republican at the start of this Congress, was virtually read out of the party for voting to impeach Trump and playing a leading role in the House investigation into his role in the 6 January at the Capitol.
She is likely to finish the race with a substantial unspent war chest, reflecting both the ease with which she raised funds from anti-Trump donors across the country and the futility of throwing millions of dollars into a lost cause. Three weeks ago, she still had $7.4 million in the bank in a state where TV ads are cheap.
If Cheney loses to Hageman on Tuesday, she will be the last Republican to fall to a Trump-backed primary challenger after voting to impeach him. Four of the 10 chose to retire, three have already lost the primaries, and two have survived the primaries (in one of those two, Trump did not endorse a challenger).
Cheney arguably ditched most every elected Republican — the one who was on the verge of potentially becoming House Speaker one day — to draw a line against Trump and his efforts to nullify the 2020 election by any means at his disposal. arrangement.
But she now has a national fundraising platform, money in the bank and a bipartisan set of admirers, leading many Republicans and Democrats to believe there’s a method to the way she ran his campaign.
“No one would screw the whole state of Wyoming without another plan,” said Kasey Mateosky, a Republican running for a seat on the Teton County Board of Commissioners. “She must have an endgame.”
Some of Cheney’s supporters are hoping Tuesday’s election is a point of metamorphosis, the moment when Cheney completely sheds the skin of a Wyoming Republican and becomes a presidential candidate who can claim she gave the priority to the health of the republic rather than partisanship.
“I think that’s going to open the door for her — she’ll stay in politics,” said Thomas Grisell, 75, a longtime Democrat who switched parties to vote for Cheney. He has credited her with answering his call for help on a restorative justice program and, while he hopes she will cause an upheaval on Tuesday night, he wants her to run for president.
“She would love to run against Trump,” he said.
Voters like Grisell were part of Cheney’s Hail Mary strategy to defeat Trump’s forces in Wyoming, which he won in 2020 by 43 percentage points, its largest margin in the country. In a state where it’s fairly easy for voters to switch party affiliations to vote in primaries, she tried to create a coalition of anti-Trump Republicans, independents and Democrats.
His two main opponents were Trump and mathematics. The former president seeks revenge, and his supporters in the state are more likely to curse Cheney’s name than identify with reporters.
Unless there’s a major last-minute shift in grassroots Republican opinion of Cheney, there just doesn’t seem to be enough newly registered GOP voters to push her to victory.
In January, there were 280,741 registered voters in Wyoming: 196,179 Republicans, 45,822 Democrats and 35,344 independents, along with a relative handful of voters from the Constitution and Libertarian parties. By early August, GOP lists had increased by about 11,495 voters — while Democratic and independent numbers had fallen by 7,644 voters combined.
Still, Cheney’s battle with Trump has made some Republicans respect her more, both across the country and here. Alexandra Alessandro, who held a Cheney sign in Jackson’s town square on Saturday, said she voted twice for Trump for president but was proud of her representative’s work on the committee.
“The most important thing for me was January 6,” she said. “That changed for me, like I said, ‘I’m a Republican, I have Republican beliefs that my parents instilled in me,’ but January 6 is what really, really changed for me.”
Hageman’s main line of attack is that Cheney, the Virginia-raised daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, doesn’t really have “Wyoming values.” A super PAC of that name, formed by Trump allies, has been the biggest outside spender in the race, pumping in more than $1 million to boost Hageman and hurt Cheney.
The message resonated with some GOP voters.
“I will vote for Hageman because I think she represents Wyoming values more than Liz Cheney,” said a senior voter who spoke out in Afton but declined to be named. “I had a lot of respect for Liz Cheney, and some of the things she recent fact, I didn’t think it represented the voice of the people of Wyoming.”
Cheney’s campaign declined to make her available for an interview before the primary.
Bryan Tarantola, a retired architect and urban planner who usually votes Democratic, said “one of the joys” of Wyoming’s primary system is that it gives voters the option to change to prevent someone from winning a nomination. .
Tarantola, 75, said ‘the technique has been used here for a long time’ and relished the opportunity to speak his mind in response to a bot message he received from a pro-Hageman group .
“I was sorry to learn that Wyoming has abandoned truth, honesty and integrity in favor of the big lie, betrayal, insurrection and a proto-fascist dictator,” a- he added. he replied to the sender of the message. “We don’t need a Drumpf lackey, we need someone who isn’t afraid to stand up for democracy and the Constitution. You are part of a dangerous, nihilistic cult, and Liz Cheney is anything but liberal.”
But the temporary enthusiasm of Democratic voters should not spare Cheney in the short term.
“Unless the biggest misfire in primary election history happens, it looks like it’s all integrated,” said a GOP political operative who has been active in the state for Hageman. “There weren’t enough Democrats in the state for her.”
More telling, said the agent, who declined to be named for fear of publicly taking a premature victory lap, Cheney’s decision to use his airtime to attack Trump – including an advertisement in which his father called Trump a “coward” – failed to align himself with a GOP grassroots seduction strategy.
“There was no publicity that you were running to win Republican primary voters,” he said.