The National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) would back Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) if he faces a primary challenge from Liz Cheney, a committee spokesman told The Hill.
Cheney, a Fox News commentator, former State Department official and the daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, is said to be seriously considering a Senate bid against Enzi.
The New York Times reported last weekend that Cheney telephoned the GOP senator and told him “she’s looking at” challenging him.
She has been highly active in local Republican politics since moving to Wyoming with her family about a year ago, attending a number of events around the state, sometimes with her father by her side.
While Cheney grew up in Virginia and has spent most of her life there, Dick Cheney long represented Wyoming in Congress and remains popular with the state’s Republicans.
Enzi has said he’s likely to run for a fourth Senate term but hasn’t made an official announcement.
“He’s focused on representing the state and people of Wyoming,” said Enzi spokesman Daniel Head.
“He loves his job, feels he's making a difference, finally has the committees he wants to be on, knows seniority counts, and knows how to use it. He is doing everything he can to continue to earn the respect of the people of Wyoming by working hard for them and representing them well.”
While the NRSC has said it’ll back Enzi, party committees are loath to spend money on contested primaries — especially in states like Wyoming where whoever wins the primary is a virtual lock to win the general election.
It’s unlikely Enzi would receive much monetary support from the committee if he does face Cheney in a primary.
If she runs, Cheney will likely have no problem raising money for the race.
She is well-known in national GOP donor circles, particularly with those focused on national security. Cheney, along with conservative commentator Bill Kristol, run a national security organization called Keep America Safe. She would also clearly benefit from her father’s national profile and connections.
Enzi has less than $400,000 cash on hand for a possible campaign, a low amount for a longtime senator but a good start in an inexpensive state to campaign in.
Wyoming Republicans sought to downplay concerns about a potentially divisive primary fight.
“Nobody's announced anything. There's no story right now,” said Wyoming Republican Party Chairwoman Tammy Hooper, who declined to discuss the race in detail.
“As far as I know, Liz Cheney hasn't said, 'Yes, I'm running,’ and Sen. Enzi hasn't actually officially confirmed that he's running either.”
The potential primary could break as much on a generational divide as an ideological one.
Both are known as strong conservatives — Enzi is 69, closer to Dick Cheney’s age, while Liz Cheney is 46. Enzi boasts strong lifetime scores from a number of conservative groups.
One area where Enzi could be vulnerable in a primary comes from his strong support for a law that would allow states to collect sales tax on out-of-state Internet purchases.
Enzi was the lead Senate Republican pushing the bill, which was strongly opposed by Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform as well as the conservative Heritage Foundation.