- The Washington Times - Monday, January 6, 2014

Liz Cheney abandoned her GOP primary challenge to Wyoming Sen. Michael B. Enzi on Monday, a move that underscores the long odds facing challengers looking to unseat longtime Republican incumbents this year.

Ms. Cheney, the elder daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, was hoping to ride anti-incumbent sentiment to victory over Mr. Enzi, but said that she was withdrawing from the race because of “serious health issues” in her family.

She becomes the first major challenger to drop out in a year when the GOP is expecting another slate of contested primaries between tea party challengers and incumbents — with some of the races pitting business community Republicans against the party’s grass-roots activists.

Kyle Kondik, of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics, said Ms. Cheney faced a different situation than anti-incumbent challengers do in Kentucky, Mississippi and Kansas.

“The difference between Cheney and other primary challengers was that Cheney’s challenge was not purely ideological — she really didn’t qualify as ‘tea party,’ and Enzi is not necessarily an ‘establishment’ Republican,” Mr. Kondik said. “The other challenges are a lot easier to categorize as ‘insider vs. outsider’ contests. So I don’t think the unique Cheney case tells us all that much about the other primaries, other than that what she attempted to do, and what other challengers are continuing to try to do — defeat a sitting senator in a primary — is really, really hard.”

The 47-year-old Cheney failed to gain the sort of momentum she needed to oust Mr. Enzi as she struggled to shed the idea that she was a carpetbagger who moved from Virginia to Wyoming solely for political reasons.

Her message was further muddied after her sister Mary, who is a lesbian, slammed her for coming out against same-sex marriage.

Ms. Cheney cited family concerns for dropping out.

“My children and their futures were the motivation for our campaign and their health and well being will always be my overriding priority,” she said.

Political observers said Ms. Cheney had banked on raising significantly more money than Mr. Enzi — but fundraising had been a struggle since she announced her candidacy in July.

“It is clear that she wasn’t gaining any traction,” said Jennifer Duffy, of The Cook Political Report. “It seems like the race wasn’t going the way she believed it would. In the larger scheme of things, it doesn’t mean much. Republicans’ hold on the seat wasn’t threatened regardless of who won the primary. The establishment can’t claim victory because Cheney dropped out.”

The 2014 elections mark the third straight congressional elections in which challengers under the tea party banner are trying to unseat longtime GOP incumbents. Other marquee primary races include Kentucky, where Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell faces off against businessman Matt Bevin; Mississippi, where Sen. Thad Cochran tries to fend off state Sen. Chris McDaniel; and Kansas, where Milton Wolf is aiming at Sen. Pat Roberts.

In many of the cases the challengers are combing through voting records, looking for Washington votes that can be used to turn the base against incumbents.

In Kansas, Mr. Wolf has hammered Mr. Roberts on his vote in early 2013 supporting the “fiscal cliff” deal that extended most of the Bush-era tax cuts while allowing marginal rates to rise for the wealthy.

“All four Kansas members of the House of Representatives opposed the president’s bad deal but Pat Roberts choose to go along with it. A conservative wouldn’t do that,” Mr. Milton said in his attack on Mr. Roberts.



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