Cheney fuels talk of independent bid
Rep. Liz Cheney’s (R-Wyo.) comment that she will not be a Republican if former President Trump wins the party’s 2024 presidential nomination is sparking chatter that she might mount an independent White House run.
While Cheney lost her House primary to the former president’s endorsed candidate last month, her break with the MAGA wing of the GOP has made her the leader of the anti-Trump movement among Republicans and beyond.
It’s unclear whether Cheney will run in 2024 at all, whether she would run as an independent if she mounted a bid or what impact an independent bid could have on what’s shaping up to be another Trump-focused presidential election. But observers say she’ll continue to be an important figure on the national stage no matter what.
“She’s going to be one of the most prominent voices in politics over the coming years regardless of being in Congress or not,” said veteran Republican strategist Doug Heye.
Chatter about a possible Cheney presidential bid began almost the minute she lost her House primary and gave a speech that was at once a concession and a vow to keep fighting. Her comments over the weekend are the latest to draw attention from political observers, all of whom are eager to see how Cheney responds to a likely Trump presidential run in 2024.
Though the former president hasn’t announced his intentions yet, reports suggest he could launch another White House bid shortly after the November midterms.
“I’m gonna make sure Donald Trump — I’m gonna do everything I can to make sure he’s not the nominee,” she said during an interview at The Texas Tribune Festival on Saturday.
“And if he is the nominee, I won’t be a Republican,” she added.
Additionally, the outgoing congresswoman said that she would be willing to campaign for Democrats ahead of November’s midterm elections.
Cheney — who has said she’s “thinking about” a presidential run — remains one of the big wild cards ahead of 2024. Though third-party presidential campaigns have historically fallen flat, Cheney’s high profile means an independent bid has the potential to scramble the political calculus as GOP primary voters increasingly nominate hard-right candidates for office, frustrating more moderate Republicans.
But even as chatter grows about the next presidential race, some observers caution against taking the emphasis off Cheney’s message.
“There are going to be a lot of stories between now and whenever kind of horse racing what are her chances in Nevada or New Hampshire or what have you, and I think they all will miss the point,” Heye said.
“She’s not talking about winning this precinct or that precinct. She’s talking about a much bigger issue,” he continued, referring to concerns over the future of American democracy.
Cheney herself shared this sentiment in Texas over the weekend when asked about 2024.
“I think it’s really important not to just immediately jump to the horse race. And I think about what we need as a country. And, you know, we have to step back from the abyss,” Cheney said. “And we have to recognize that, that there’s this shift going on in our politics, that the tectonic plates are shifting. And that means that we all have a responsibility to say to ourselves, what are we going to do to make sure that our kids, you know, know what it means to have peaceful transfers of power? And what are we going to do to make sure that we don’t contribute to the unraveling of the republic? And I think that’s a much bigger question.”
Still, as the most prominent face of the anti-Trump movement, Cheney is seen as a natural alternative for Republicans unhappy with the direction of the party under Trump, particularly when it comes to the boosting of candidates who deny the results of the 2020 presidential election.
The question is how many of those Republicans there are — and whether there are any Democrats willing to go beyond lauding her work against Trump and cast ballots for her.
During her primary night speech last month, Cheney appealed to “Republicans, Democrats and independents” to stand together with her “against those who would destroy our republic.” Additionally, Cheney vowed to “do whatever it takes to ensure Donald Trump is never again anywhere near the Oval Office.”
And Cheney has signaled she is keeping true to that promise. Within hours of losing her primary, Cheney launched The Great Task, a political action committee committed to blocking Trump from grasping the presidency again. Additionally, Cheney will continue to make headlines before she leaves office, particularly as the House select committee she co-chairs wraps up its work investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol.
Meanwhile, Cheney’s Republican critics argue that her actions amount to rabble-rousing and ultimately will not impact the trajectory of the GOP or the nation’s politics as a whole.
“Liz Cheney represents a group of Republicans who haven’t come to grips with why people have embraced some of this populism both on the left and the right,” said Republican strategist Keith Naughton. “They’re just pouting because they’re out of power and they don’t like Donald Trump.”
Over the weekend, Cheney specifically targeted Arizona Republican gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake and Pennsylvania Republican gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano over their denial of the 2020 presidential election results.
Lake, who is locked in a tight race against Democrat Katie Hobbs, responded on Sunday by describing Cheney’s comments as a “gift.”
“That might be the biggest, best gift I have ever received,” Lake told Maria Bartiromo on Fox News’s “Sunday Morning Futures.” “Liz Cheney probably should change her voter registration. Turns out she really is a Democrat after all.”
Underscoring the challenges Cheney faces in the GOP, a recent Morning Consult survey found that 66 percent of Republicans had an unfavorable view of her. Another 21 percent said they did not have an opinion or had never heard of her, while 14 percent said they had a favorable view. The same poll found that 42 percent of independent voters said they had an unfavorable view of Cheney, while 48 percent of Democrats said they had a favorable view of her.
When it comes to how the Republican 2024 primary could shape up, Trump and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis continue to lead the hypothetical pack.
“I think if she ran for president, I don’t think she’d be going anywhere. She’d be the Evan McMullin of 2024,” Naughton said, referring to the former Republican who ran as an independent in the 2016 presidential election and is currently running as an independent against Sen. Mike Lee (R) in Utah.
Yet even as large swaths of the GOP seem to have moved against her, some Republicans are more circumspect about whether Cheney could maintain a place within the party.
“I don’t think we know the answer to it yet, and to some extent that depends on what happens in November and beyond,” Heye said.