The Memo

The Memo: Skepticism runs deep about Cheney’s electoral future

Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) is swimming against a strong current of skepticism as she publicly mulls a future run for office.

Cheney has been clear that she is contemplating a White House run in 2024. Such a bid, if she made it, would have the explicit goal of denying former President Trump a return to the Oval Office.

But the obstacles are immense.

Cheney will be out of a job in January after getting thumped in her House primary in Wyoming last week. 

Despite raising around $13 million, holding the advantages of incumbency and getting enormous media coverage, Cheney lost to her Trump-backed challenger, attorney Harriet Hageman, by more than 35 points.

The defeat itself was not surprising — even Cheney and her team appeared to be reconciled to her fate in the closing weeks, saving a considerable amount of her campaign bank account for future endeavors. At the end of July, less than three weeks from primary day, Cheney had about $7 million in her coffers.

But the scale of the shellacking surely calls into question the appetite for any electoral ambitions harbored by the congresswoman.

Cheney remains defiant. 

In an interview with Jonathan Karl on ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday, she said she had “no regrets” about her ferocious criticisms of Trump. 

Those criticisms have found their most prominent expression during her time as vice chairwoman of the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection. She is one of only two Republicans on the panel, the other being Rep. Adam Kinzinger (Ill.), who is not running for reelection.

Cheney told Karl that she was going to be “very focused” on working to ensure “election deniers,” a category that includes Hagemen, would not win their races, adding, “I’m going to work to support their opponents.” 

The sentiment seemed to at least suggest she might back Democrats given that primary season across the nation is nearing its end.

Earlier last week, she had told NBC’s “Today” show that running for president is “something I’m thinking about” and that she would make a decision “in the coming months.”

In her ABC interview, she kept that prospect open but declined to get drawn into hypotheticals about whether she would run as a Republican or an independent.

Either way, there are plenty of people across the political spectrum who have serious doubts about her viability.

“Look, she has two problems if she chooses to run for president,” said Matt Mackowiak, the chairman of the Travis County Republican Party in Texas.

“The first is, her single issue of denying Trump the nomination is not one that has significant support among Republican primary voters anywhere. The second is, if she were to run as an independent, it would likely pull away more Democratic votes than Republican votes, and the challenges related to ballot access are immense,” he added.

Mackowiak also questioned the media’s focus on Cheney’s prospects, especially given the scale of her loss in Wyoming. Citing her appearance on “Today,” one of the most famous TV shows in the nation, he asked rhetorically what other candidate had got such coverage in the immediate aftermath of such a dismal result.

“There is a media fascination with Liz Cheney that is totally out of whack and is well beyond the interest that voters have,” he argued.

Such views aren’t confined to Republican operatives.

“She has very successfully elbowed her way to being the No. 1 Republican who the media love to interview,” said Tobe Berkovitz, a Boston University professor emeritus who specializes in political communication.

“She will always have that platform, but will it be as someone in the media or as a kind of gadfly annoyance to Donald Trump?” Berkovitz asked.

“The real question is, will there by a viable alternative to Donald Trump? That is not going to be Liz Cheney,” he added.

Sen. Mitt Romney (Utah), one of seven GOP senators who voted to convict Trump after his second impeachment, is also among the Cheney skeptics, at least when it comes to a bid for the Republican nomination.

“She would not become the nominee if she were to run. I can’t imagine that would occur,” Romney said last week, according to the Deseret News.

But an independent bid by Cheney could also quickly run into trouble given that, setting aside her fervent opposition to Trump, she remains the staunch conservative she has always been. 

Her right-wing views across the board, including a notably hawkish stance on foreign affairs, seem unlikely to commend her to disaffected Democrats.

That said, Cheney’s decision to stick to her conservative guns earns her admiration from some Republicans. 

On the right, there is a long-running disdain for a group of erstwhile conservative strategists and media pundits who are perceived to have become de facto Democrats, transforming their earlier views way beyond merely voicing disdain for Trump.

By contrast, Cheney “has held firm, and she has done so on her own terms, and she was willing to give up her seat for it,” said Doug Heye, a former communications director for the Republican National Committee. “That consistency and willingness to sacrifice draws respect.”

Respect is one thing, but votes are another.

And that’s the political reality that spells trouble for Cheney.

The Memo is a reported column by Niall Stanage.

Tags 2022 midterms 2022 primaries 2024 2024 presidential election Adam Kinzinger election 2024 gop primaries Harriet Hageman Jan. 6 Jan. 6 Capitol riot Jan. 6 hearings Jan. 6 House committee Mitt Romney Wyoming

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