Liz Cheney has a mountain of public opinion to topple if she is to win next year's Wyoming Republican Senate primary.
Cheney trails incumbent Sen. Mike Enzi by a wide 55 percent to 21 percent margin, according to the first poll on the race, released Friday by Harper Polling.
The reason, quite simply, is Enzi's sterling reputation among the party faithful. A robust 76 percent of likely GOP primary voters say they view him favorably, while a scant six percent say the opposite.
That's virtually unchanged from a 2011 PPP poll in which 76 percent of Republicans approved of his job performance, versus 12 percent who did not.
Meanwhile, 45 percent of respondents say they like Cheney, versus 15 percent who do not. Another 38 percent have no opinion of her. (Cheney's father, former Vice President and Wyoming Rep. Dick Cheney, fares much better with a 74 percent favorability rating.)
These findings underscore the biggest challenge Cheney faces in her rare bid to unseat a popular incumbent through a primary challenge. Enzi, a three-term senator, has deep ties to the party base and its leaders. Cheney, on the other hand, only moved to Wyoming last year, and has already come under fire as a carpetbagging outsider trying to cash in on her dad's big name.
Is there any reason for this race other than 'Liz Cheney wants to be a senator?'
— Matt Lewis (@mattklewis) July 16, 2013
Here's GOP strategist Ed Rollins speaking more pointedly about that in The Hill:
I like Liz, I've been a longtime friend of her father's, but it'll be portrayed as they've been away from the state a long time, a housewife who's kind of bored who moved back to Wyoming after a long time to run for the Senate.
Unfortunately for Liz, that's not a state like California or New York where you can carpetbag very easily, and even though she was born there she hasn't been there for a long time. [The Hill]
Wyoming's Gillette News Record was even less kind, saying in an editorial, "If you want to run for U.S. Senate, try it from Virginia or some other state." That editorial also notes a prevalent sentiment on the GOP side, that because Enzi wants to keep his seat, he should be allowed to do so without facing an intra-party skirmish.
Cheney prominently touted her family's Wyoming roots in a video announcing her candidacy. And she sought to cast herself as a fire-breathing conservative with that rollout, a sensible move given that Wyoming is the second-most conservative state in the nation, according to Gallup.
Unfortunately for her, Enzi is the eighth-most conservative member of the Senate, per the National Journal's rankings, and he has a 92.73 lifetime score from the American Conservative Union.
Cheney at least has one prominent Republican commentator behind her already.
I'm pleased to endorse Liz Cheney for the United States Senate.
— Erick Erickson (@EWErickson) July 16, 2013