Early Monday, CNN reported that Wyoming senate candidate Liz Cheney is abandoning her high-profile bid to unseat Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) in the Republican primary. Cheney never got any real traction in her five-month campaign, but being the daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney and a Fox News contributor gave her access to donors and enough publicity to make her campaign at least seem plausible.
It turns out Wyoming Republicans aren't ready for a change. Or if they are, a hawkish Beltway insider not unfairly accused of carpetbagging isn't the change they had in mind.
Cheney dropping out of the race so soon is important in at least one way: A handful of big Republican donors just threw away money that could have gone toward other races. Cheney raised at least a million dollars after she announced her candidacy, and Enzi did the same — big money that early in a primary race in Wyoming.
Otherwise, though, Cheney's crumple doesn't mean much.
Yes, Sen. Mike Enzi won't have to spend nearly as much money to win re-election this fall. If anything, Cheney's short-lived campaign probably saved Enzi from the inevitable Tea Party challenge facing other conservative senators like John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).
But the list of things we didn't learn is much longer. Despite the kerfuffle over Cheney's family feud–inducing opposition to gay marriage, there's no broader message about gay rights or same-sex marriage to be mined. In fact, she and Enzi agreed on almost all social and political issues. The aborted primary challenge was too Wyoming-specific to provide much guidance to other candidates.
Most importantly, Cheney's campaign didn't fit the mold of the kind of Tea Party challenge that has unseated Republicans like Bob Bennett in Utah, Richard Lugar in Indiana, and, less successfully, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska. Those insurgencies were from relative political outsiders warning about cronyism and government spending; Cheney, if anything, is more "establishment" than Enzi, and the Cheney brand is hardly synonymous with small government or shrinking deficits. Cornyn, McConnell, and Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) can't take any comfort from Cheney's departure.