Opinion

Is Liz Cheney finished?

The sharpest opinions on the debate from around the web

A new Casper Star-Tribune poll shows Rep. Liz Cheney, a Republican leader on the Jan. 6 committee, far behind her challenger, Harriet Hageman, in the House GOP primary for Wyoming's U.S. House seat. Hageman had the backing of 52 percent of participants, to Cheney's 30 percent. The poll, conducted for the Star-Tribune by Mason-Dixon Polling & Strategy, is the first independent, in-state poll on the race. It was taken from July 7 to July 11, just after the start of early voting. There's no way for Cheney supporters to sugarcoat the results, according to Brad Coker, Mason-Dixon managing director. "The big story is Liz Cheney is going to get beat," said Coker. "That's a foregone conclusion."

Cheney fell out of favor with Wyoming's Republican establishment, which censured her after she voted in favor of then-President Donald Trump's impeachment over the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol attack by a mob of his supporters. Cheney kept pushing as a leader of the House select committee investigating the attack, and Trump's role in encouraging the rioters by urging them to pressure Congress not to certify his 2020 election loss to President Biden. Trump has endorsed Hageman, a natural resources lawyer, and called Cheney "despicable." Cheney has outspent her primary opponents with ads touting her unwavering conservative record — she voted with Trump 92.9 percent of the time. Has Cheney's continuing criticism of Trump, and her rejection of his baseless claims of election fraud doomed her career in Congress?

Cheney is indeed 'toast'

Cheney really appears to be "toast," says Byron York in the Washington Examiner. That comes as no surprise, given her insistence that Trump is unfit for office. "Cheney's Ahab-like fixation on getting Trump is unpopular in a state where so many voters have a favorable view of the former president." But Cheney's problems started before Trump entered the picture. Cheney, daughter of former vice president and Wyoming congressman Dick Cheney, was born in Wisconsin and grew up in Washington, D.C. Her detractors accuse her of returning to her family's home state "only to win political office." Falling out of sync with Wyoming Republicans on Trump only reinforced criticism of her as an "opportunistic outsider," and "reminded some Wyomingites of everything they didn't like about" her in the first place.

Cheney's problem isn't that she's an outsider

The MAGA crowd isn't mad at Liz Cheney because they think she's a carpetbagger, says Jonah Goldberg at The Dispatch. She's "a villain because she's telling the truth." Trump's diehard supporters "passionately believe the election was stolen" — even though there is zero evidence it was — because they have chosen to believe the lie. The argument for how the presidency was stolen from Trump "evolves as each specific claim gets debunked... The Italians did it! No wait, it was Hugo Chavez! Okay, Chavez didn't do it — it was the Chinese! Okay, I was wrong about the Chinese, it was Dominion! No, it was Mark Zuckerberg. The Deep State! Soros! Fauci! Col. Sanders..." When that's the reasoning you're up against, being on the side of truth puts you on the losing team. 

Unlikely allies could give Cheney a shot

This brutal poll is a "tribute to Cheney's courage in standing up against Donald Trump in a state where the election-denying prevaricator won 70 percent of the vote in 2020," says E.J. Dionne Jr. in The Washington Post. Cheney's last hope is for "every Democrat" and independent in Wyoming to cross over and vote for her in the Aug. 16 Republican primary, "which they can do under state law." Cheney always knew "her eloquent leading role" in the Jan. 6 committee's hearings would "hurt her with the party faithful back home." That's why Democrats and independents "who understand the threat of Trumpism should flood into Wyoming's Republican primary." Even if it's not enough to "sustain Cheney, they would send a message for November: that the threat to democracy is the most important issue on the ballot. Standing with democracy's defenders, even if you disagree with them on many other issues, should take priority."

Losing this primary won't end Cheney's political career

Cheney's campaign ads don't even mention Trump, says John Nichols in The Nation. They "talk about her fierce opposition to gun control, abortion rights, and 'Green New Deal regulations [that] threaten to hamstring our producers and stifle economic growth in our communities.'" But Trump is sure campaigning against her through Hageman, who is "mounting an overtly pro-Trump and anti-Cheney campaign." If Hageman and the others in the field split the pro-Trump vote, Cheney has a shot. But even if she loses, and Trump wins, "Cheney still has ambitions within a Republican Party that she imagines — like many pundits — will eventually move beyond Trump and Trumpism." In the Jan. 6 committee's first hearing, Cheney scolded GOP colleagues who have backpedaled from blaming Trump for fueling the Jan. 6 riot with his election lies, saying: "There will come a day when Donald Trump is gone, but your dishonor will remain." When that day comes, conservatives might see Cheney differently.

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