By Cameron Joseph - 01/06/14 04:49 PM EST
Liz Cheney has some fences to mend if she wants to have an eventual future in politics.
The daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney announced Monday morning she was ending her ill-fated GOP primary challenge to Sen. Mike EnziMike EnziJudd Gregg: The silver lining Judd Gregg: A little change Lobbying World MORE (R-Wyo.).
Though Cheney cited “serious health issues [that] have recently arisen in our family” as her reason from withdrawing, the early exit could spare more damage to her own political brand and still preserve the possibility of another run for office.
“There's an old Western phrase from the cattlemen: Hair over and heal quick. It comes from branding. When you brand a calf that burns the hair and that hurts but it heals fast. There will be healing,” said former Sen. Alan Simpson (R-Wyo.), a longtime friend of the Cheneys who had a very public spat with the family after he endorsed Enzi in the race.
Cheney’s July announcement sent shockwaves through the normally placid community of Wyoming Republicans. While she may have hoped to push Enzi into retirement, he stepped up his fundraising push instead and led handily in polls.
Her moves triggered a number of public fights — between Enzi allies and those closer to Cheney, the Simpsons and the Cheneys and even within Cheney’s immediate family.
After conservative groups worked to paint Cheney as soft on social issues, her push to show she opposed legalizing gay marriage deeply offended her sister Mary Cheney, who is openly gay. The tension exploded onto Facebook, where Mary and her wife attacked Liz's views on the matter.
Most Republicans took issue not with her running but with her challenging Enzi, who is beloved by many in the party. A statement from the Wyoming GOP after she dropped out called her a “rising star in state and national party politics.”
Cheney’s decision to drop her bid now could actually help her down the line, but state political observers admit she’ll have work to do.
“She has to make a massive effort to repair things. The shine has come off the Cheney name through this process in the state,” said one GOP strategist with Wyoming ties. “She's going to have to show why electing her someday might be a good idea, and that means a serious investment in helping Wyoming with its various issues in any way that she can.”
Simpson says Cheney called him Monday morning to let him know she was leaving the race.
“We talked to Liz this morning, Ann and I, and she says she made this decision, that it's a mom thing, it's a family thing. And I said don't forget you're [our] family. You and your dad are in our DNA,” said Simpson. “We said we love you and she said I love you too and that was it.”
Simpson, who’d been critical of her campaign, believes she’ll be a formidable future candidate.
“She's moving on and at some future time indeed she'll be a political figure within Wyoming,” he says. “People aren't going to hold out a grudge or irritation. I don't."
Others praised Cheney but said she’d have to make a good-faith effort to show she plans to make Wyoming her permanent home. A major problem for Cheney’s campaign against Enzi was her 2012 move back to the state after decades living on the East Coast.
“The biggest thing she has to overcome is the charge a few Wyomingites are making about her being a carpet-bagger and stay in Wyoming,” said Wyoming state Rep. Marti Halverson (R), who also serves as a delegate to the Republican National Committee. “I'm sure if you scratch the surface and go down a ways you're going to find some bad blood, but in the party itself, no, there’s none.”