Liz Cheney’s political life is probably ending – and just beginning

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JACKSON, Wyo. — The two-minute video, ostensibly meant as the closing appeal to voters here, likely served much more as the launch point for a campaign that will last for years to come.

“No matter how long we have to fight, this is a battle we will win,” Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) said. said to the camera, promising to lead “millions of Americans” of all ideological stripes “united in the cause of freedom”.

“It is our great task and we will prevail. I hope you will join me in this fight,” Cheney concludes.

Cheney is looking well beyond Tuesday’s Republican primary for that state’s seat in the U.S. House, a race she is likely to lose barring an unprecedented surge of non-Republican voters in the GOP contest.

She entered Congress six years ago as a relative celebrity, the daughter of the former vice president who spent several years using Fox News appearances to deliver sour criticism of the Obama-Biden administration. And she could leave the US Capitol, likely in 4½ months, as the face of an anti-Trump movement that has cost her old alliances but left her with new supporters, clamoring for a more focused next act. country.

‘I sure hope she runs for president,’ said James Rooks, elected to Jackson City Council as a self-proclaimed ‘fierce independent’, as he sat in a cafe gazing at Snow King Mountain .

Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), vice chair of the Jan. 6 select committee, may have to seek support outside of the GOP base to win her upcoming Wyoming primary. (Video: Libby Casey, Joshua Carroll/The Washington Post)

Cheney has fielded questions about her ambitions since first taking office, but the intensity has intensified after blockbuster hearings this summer, during which she served as vice chair of the committee investigating the role of the ex-president in the insurrection of January 6, 2021 at the Capitol.

“I will make a decision for 2024 later,” she said. CNN end of July.

But Cheney is lucid about his chances of winning the presidential nomination in a party that is still as loyal to former President Donald Trump, according to friends and advisers. She sees her future role similar to how she views the work of the Jan. 6 committee: blocking any path for Trump to the Oval Office.

“It’s about the danger he poses to the country and the fact that he can no longer be close to this power,” she told a crowd of supporters in Cheyenne just before the start of the hearings of the committee in early June.

Traditional conservatives opposed to Trump have previously raised the possibility of Cheney running for the White House. “That chatter was very strong even before that Dick Cheney ad,” Dmitri Mehlhorn said, referring to a campaign ad that broadcast nationwide on Fox News and featured the former vice president denouncing Trump.

Mehlhorn advises several donors from across the political spectrum who oppose Trump, including billionaire LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman. He said he and the donors he works with would consider funding a presidential bid for Cheney.

In that regard, Cheney will spend the months following the conclusion of the committee’s work later this year determining its next steps. It could be the launch of a political organization that focuses on Trump, or think tank work coupled with media appearances.

But, for some, Cheney and a small but influential bloc of anti-Trump Republicans have decided that there must be a 2024 candidate who will present himself as an unabashed opponent of both the ex-president and other candidates who vomit its falsehoods on the 2020 elections.

This anti-Trump group fears a repeat of the 2016 campaign, in which rivals refrained from attacking Trump’s unorthodox behavior and positions until it was too late. The emerging Republican presidential field of 2024 consists of the former president, his allies seeking to emulate him, and a slew of other Republicans courting non-Trump voters but not forcefully denouncing Trump.

Cheney and his crowd want a candidate who would simply serve as a political suicide bomber, blowing up his candidacy but also unseating Trump.

“You need that. I think it has to be someone who’s willing to take the boos, take the shouting,” Rep. Adam Kinzinger (Illinois), the only other Republican on the Jan. 6 committee, said in a recent interview. “Someone [who] can stand on stage and just tell people the truth, I think that would have a huge impact.

Mehlhorn, the anti-Trump donor adviser, said if Cheney were to approach them “and say, you know, with another 10 million, I can make sure Republican voters remember how bad Trump is in a way that might get someone else out of the primary or might weaken it for the overall, but I need another $10 million or $20 million – listen, we’d take this seriously.

Cheney has been very outspoken in his denunciations of House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and other Republicans who stuck with Trump despite his help in precipitating the attack on Capitol Hill.

But she’s also been thwarted by a distinct group of Republicans who despise Trump but instead hope the ex-president will fade away, particularly Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).

“Where Kevin is like a total public hug, McConnell is: ignore and hope he goes away. And it just doesn’t work,” Cheney told the authors of “This won’t pass», a book on the fallout from the 2020 elections.

But Cheney’s singular focus on preventing Trump’s re-election has come at a heavy cost. His political universe is turned upside down.

Over the weekend, McCarthy began hosting its annual major donor party in Teton Village, less than 15 miles north of the Cheney polling station. It’s the same location where Cheney and his father co-hosted a million dollar fundraiser on Trump’s behalf in August 2019, but the resort’s owner has since spoken out against Cheney and backs his challenger, Harriet Hageman, endorsed by Trump.

Instead of his traditional GOP support, Cheney is trying to rally tens of thousands of Democrats and independents across Wyoming to advance to the Republican primary.

For the record, the local liberals are perplexed by the their influx of support after decades of viewing the Cheney family as the political enemy.

“I can’t believe I’m thinking about that. This world is crazy,” recalls Diana Welch, adviser to Christy Walton, billionaire heiress to the Walmart fortune. But last Monday Welch happily co-hosted an event in the nearby town of Wilson where Democrats, including local elected officials, outnumbered Republicans.

Alli Noland, a local public relations official, spent years as a Democrat but finally quit a few years ago because the GOP primaries were so critical in this deeply conservative state.

She now hosts regular get-togethers at the Stagecoach Bar just outside Jackson for liberals interested in learn to support Cheney.

And there are people like Mike May, who told his friends on Saturday night how, from the early days of the Bush-Cheney administration, he owned a Volkswagen bus with a blunt “Cheney’s a bad guy” sticker on it.

His more traditional truck now bears a “Cheney for Wyoming” sticker. He said he attended Monday’s event just to say “thank you” for standing up to Trump.

According declare recordsthe change is real.

On January 1, Republicans had more than 196,000 registered voters, while Democrats had about 46,000. As of August 1, Republicans gained 11,000 new voters while Democrats lost 6,000 and unaffiliated voters to either party fell by 2,000.

Teton County, traditionally the only liberal-leaning place in Wyoming, now has more registered Republicans than Democrats, and voters can switch parties until Tuesday’s primary.

Teton County Clerk Maureen Murphy reported a startling tilt in early voting toward Republicans: 3,259 votes were cast in the GOP primaries as of the end of Friday, and only 166 came in Democratic contests.

Cheney’s supporters think those numbers suggest a real increase in cross-voters. Rooks, the Jackson alderman, has spent the past few weeks proselytizing Democrats and independents to join him in the GOP primary, with great success.

“I have two friends who just can’t do it,” Rooks said, recalling one who walked into an early-vote polling place and ran away without voting for Cheney.

Republican friends are a much harder sell, he said. “I might as well try to tell them to denounce their faith.”

That scares Noland, who warns that the drive to bring non-Republicans into the primary has only turned traditional GOP voters away from Cheney. “It really fired up all Republicans,” she said.

If Cheney loses Wyoming’s usual Republicans by a 2-to-1 margin, as polls suggest, she would need something like 40,000 Democrats and Independents to cross – an incredibly high number in a state where only 115,000 voted. in the last midterm primary GOP.

Even those cross-voters, like Patrice Kangas, are past Tuesday’s result and want to know what’s next. As she told the Stagecoach, she waited in line long enough to meet Cheney after Monday’s event ended and eventually asked if she would run for president.

“Go big?” said Kangas.

“Oh,” Cheney replied, “I don’t know yet.”

Hannah Knowles contributed from Washington


An earlier version of this article misidentified a member of the city council as James Brooks. His name is James Rooks. This version has been corrected. This story has also been corrected to clarify the circumstances under which anti-Trump donors would fund a Cheney presidential bid.

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