After Wyoming loss, Cheney braces for longer-term fight against Trump — and his own political future

The question Cheney faces is whether there is an appetite within the Republican Party for a candidate singularly focused on serving as an antagonist to its most popular and dominant figure.

“It’s something I’m thinking about, and I’ll be making a decision in the coming months,” Cheney said on NBC’s “Today” on Wednesday.

How Liz Cheney Lost Wyoming's Sole House Seat

However, his role on the select committee comes with the kind of spotlight that other Republican critics of Trump have struggled to find. Cheney would face the same challenge when she leaves office in January, and a presidential bid may be the only way to meet it.

The three-term congresswoman has admitted in recent days that she knows her strategy in the Wyoming primary, where she maintained a relentless focus on Trump in interviews and TV ads despite the former president winning the state. by 43 percentage points in 2020, the primary was not popular.

The morning after her loss, Cheney repeated the message she had delivered on election night: she knew how to win Wyomingbut chose to reject a strategy of getting close to his party’s most popular figure and repeating his lies about fraud in the 2020 election.

“That path would have required me to accept, to embrace, to perpetuate the Big Lie,” she said on NBC.

She also acknowledged that distancing the GOP from Trump’s influence would be a longer-term project.

“Look, I think the Republican Party today is in terrible shape, and I think we have a tremendous amount of work to do. I think it could take several election cycles. But the country needs to have a Republican Party that is really substance-based, principle-based,” Cheney said.

Cheney channels Lincoln in PAC launch

Already, Cheney has begun to build the political apparatus to sustain a battle with Trump.

Just a few hours after giving her concession speech, Cheney created a political action committee called “Great Task”. This PAC, which will initially be funded by leftover money from his House campaign, gives Cheney a vehicle to raise funds and fund his political work.

It’s the first of several next steps for Cheney, an adviser told CNN, as she begins to act on the ideas expressed in her election night speech and open a new chapter in the wake of her landslide defeat.

The name of the PAC evokes the words of Abraham Lincoln, who spoke in his Gettysburg address of the “great task” that awaits the nation.

Cheney quoted Lincoln at length in her remarks Tuesday night at a ranch in Jackson Hole, as the sun set over Grand Teton behind her. She even drew a parallel with his losses before he won the presidency in 1860.

“Abraham Lincoln was beaten in the Senate and House elections before winning the most important election of all,” she said.

After Jan. 6 committee challenges

Cheney will have to answer questions about how to stay relevant once her job as vice chair of the House Select Committee ends and she leaves Congress in January 2023.

James Goldston, the veteran television producer who has spent the past few months advising the House panel, was present in Wyoming for Cheney’s speech. He was not in Wyoming working as a special adviser to the House committee, CNN has learned, but rather on assignment for his own production company for potential future projects involving Cheney.

Goldston, the former president of ABC News, was watching the scene at Cheney’s campaign event at a cattle ranch outside of Jackson. He and a small film crew admired the scenic landscape, with the mountains in the distance and the Wyoming prairie bathed in evening sunlight.

Cheney worked closely with Goldston’s team to present the committee’s findings in a television-ready manner to a national audience. They worked together to edit hours and hours of recordings that brought the insurgency to life as it unfolded.

“She invited him over as a friend and it has nothing to do with committee work,” Jeremy Adler, a spokesperson for Cheney, told CNN. Goldston declined to comment.

Outreach to Democrats, Independents

Cheney’s House main loss could provide some insight into his longer-term thinking. His campaign courted Democrats and unaffiliated voters, urging them to change their registration and their vote in the Republican primary.
In the 2024 presidential election, Democrats could face an uncompetitive nominating contest with President Joe Biden on the ballot seeking a second term – a prospect that could create space for more party change.

“Determine that we will stand together — Republicans, Democrats and Independents — against those who would destroy our republic,” Cheney said in his Tuesday night speech.

Biden called Cheney after his primary loss, according to a person familiar with the matter who declined to disclose the contents of the conversation, which was first reported by Bloomberg.

But a presidential race is very different from a House primary.

Liz Cheney vows to keep fighting Trump after conceding defeat in Wyoming primary

In Teton County, the liberal pocket of northwest Wyoming where Cheney lives and where she won three-quarters of the vote on Tuesday, Democrats who had changed their party registration to vote for Cheney in the primary were speculating about her future. .

The catch for Cheney: Most said they saw tuesday primary as a one-time event, and said they did not see themselves voting in a Republican presidential primary.

Sandy Buckstaff, a 67-year-old Jackson retiree, lined up outside the Teton County Library on Election Day to change his registration to vote for Cheney “even though I disagree with her on the political positions ranging from soup to nuts”.

“The Republican Party got away from me,” said Buckstaff, a former Republican who in recent years has voted for the Democrats. “Watching Liz Cheney do the right thing, I thought, what the hell is this?”

He said he was “curious” about Cheney’s future, but would not vote for her in a GOP presidential primary.

“I don’t see where she finds hope in that,” Buckstaff said, “because the base of the Republican Party won’t support her.”

John Grant, a Republican who voted for Cheney on Tuesday, said that while her views represent only a small part of current GOP thinking, he hopes she will proceed with a presidential bid.

“I think she has a future,” Grant said. “But I think it’s going to take a while – there are a lot of Trump supporters out there.”

This story has been updated with additional developments.

CNN’s Gabby Orr and Jeremy Diamond contributed to this report.

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