Cheney described her loss as the beginning of a new chapter in her political career.
Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney, Donald Trump’s fiercest Republican challenger in Congress, was defeated in the GOP primary on Tuesday, losing to an opponent backed by the former president in a contest that strengthened his grip on the party’s base.
The third-term congresswoman and her allies entered the day ahead of their prospects knowing that Trump’s support had given Harriet Hageman a big boost in a state he won by his largest margin during the 2020 campaign. Cheney was already looking ahead to a political future outside of Capitol Hill that could include a 2024 presidential run, potentially putting her on another collision course with Trump.
Cheney described her loss as the start of a new chapter in her political career as she addressed a small gathering of supporters, including her father, former Vice President Dick Cheney, on the edge of a sprawling field lined with mountains and hay bales.
“Our work is far from over,” she said.
Four hundred miles to the east, Hageman’s holiday supporters gathered at Cheyenne’s sprawling outdoor rodeo and western culture festival, many wearing cowboy boots, hats and blue jeans.
The results were a stark reminder of the GOP’s rapid shift to the right. A party once dominated by national security-oriented, pro-business conservatives like Dick Cheney now belongs to Trump, buoyed by his populist appeal and, above all, his denial of defeat in the 2020 election.
Those lies, roundly rejected by federal and state election officials along with Trump’s own attorney general and the judges he appointed, transformed Cheney from an occasional critic of the former president to the clearest voice inside the Republican Party warning that he posed a threat to democratic norms.
Cheney’s defeat would have been unthinkable just two years ago. The daughter of a former vice president comes from one of Wyoming’s most prominent political families. And in Washington, she was the No. 3 Republican in the House of Representatives, an influential voice in GOP politics and policy with an outstanding conservative voting record.
But after a mob of Trump supporters stormed the US Capitol on January 6, 2021, Cheney voted to impeach Trump, making it her primary mission to ensure he never served in the Oval Office again. She braved reprimands and death threats from the GOP to serve as a leader on a congressional panel investigating Trump’s role in the insurgency.
Cheney will now be forced out of Congress at the end of her third and final term in January. She is not expected to leave Capitol Hill quietly.
He will continue his leadership role on the congressional panel investigating the Jan. 6 attack until it disbands at the end of the year. And she is actively considering a 2024 White House bid — as a Republican or an independent — as she vowed to do everything in her power to fight Trump’s influence in her party.
So far, it’s a one-sided fight.
Tuesday’s primary contests in Wyoming and, to a lesser extent, Alaska, showed the staying power of Trump and his brand of tough politics ahead of November’s midterm elections. So far, the former president has helped install loyalists who parrot his conspiracy theories in general election contests from Pennsylvania to Arizona. Echoing Trump, Hageman, a farm lawyer, falsely claimed the 2020 election was “rigged.” In Alaska, another Trump ally, former Gov. Sarah Palin, hoped to also step into the national spotlight on Tuesday.
The 2008 vice presidential nominee has actually been on the ballot twice: once in a special election to complete former Rep. Don Young’s term, and again for the full two-year House term that begins in January.
On the other side of the GOP tent, regular Trump critic U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski had a chance to survive the former president’s wrath, even after voting to convict him in his second impeachment trial. The top four Alaska Senate candidates, regardless of party, will advance to the November general election, where voters will rank them in order of preference.
With the loss of Cheney, Republicans who voted to impeach Trump are dying.
A total of seven Republican senators and 10 Republican members of the House backed Trump’s impeachment in the days after his supporters stormed the US Capitol as Congress sought to confirm President Joe Biden’s victory. Only two of those 10 House members won primaries this year. After two Senate departures, Murkowski remains the only such Senate Republican on this year’s ballot.
In Wyoming, Cheney was forced to turn to the state’s small Democratic minority for help. But Democrats across America, major donors among them, took notice. She raised at least $15 million for her election, a staggering number for a Wyoming political contest.
But the makeup of Wyoming’s deeply Republican electorate was too difficult to overcome. As of August 1, 2022, there were 285,000 registered voters in Wyoming, including 40,000 Democrats and 208,000 Republicans. Trump won nearly 70% of the vote in 2016 and 2020.
If Cheney ends up running for president—whether as a Republican or an independent—don’t expect him to get three electoral votes in Wyoming.
“We like Trump. She tried to impeach Trump,” Cheyenne voter Chester Barkell said of Cheney on Tuesday. “I don’t trust Liz Cheney. And in Jackson, Republican constituent Dan Winder said he felt betrayed by his congresswoman.
“Over 70% of the state of Wyoming voted Republican in the last presidential election and she turned around and voted against us,” said Winder, the hotel manager. “She was our representative, not her own. There was no indication that the recent FBI search of Trump’s Florida headquarters played any role in Tuesday’s election.
Just eight days ago, the FBI recovered 11 sets of classified records from Trump’s home. Some have been designated as “compartmentalized sensitive information,” a special category designed to protect the nation’s most important secrets. Republicans across the country initially rallied behind the former president, though reactions were somewhat mixed as more details emerged.
Anti-Trump Republicans across the country cheered Cheney’s willingness to challenge Trump, even as they expressed disappointment at her loss.
“What’s remarkable is that she never once wavered in the face of almost certain defeat,” said Sarah Longwell, executive director of the Republican Accountability Project. “We watched the forgery of a national American character. It’s funny how small the election seems to her—the Wyoming election—because now she feels bigger than it.”