Republican Rep. Liz Cheney’s reelection hopes in Wyoming hinge on a silent majority throwing her a lifeline, according to her political allies in the state, who say she could be rewarded for risking her political future in the name of principle.
Her backers say the bark of Ms. Cheney‘s most vocal Republican critics in the state is worse than their bite, insisting the rabble-rousers in the party are out of sync with the sentiment of most Wyoming residents.
“They are loud and they are ugly,” said former state Rep. Amy Edmonds, who has previously worked for Ms. Cheney. “They are a minority, though. That is definitely not Wyoming.”
Ms. Cheney, a daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, is gearing up for the fight of her political life, a year after cruising to reelection to her at-large seat in 2020.
Former President Donald Trump, his allies and his loyal supporters are calling for her ouster.
They are infuriated over her vote to impeach Mr. Trump for inciting the Jan. 6 storming of the Capitol and her ongoing criticism of his stolen-election claims.
Mr. Trump has endorsed her primary challenger, Harriet Hageman; House Republicans booted her from leadership; and the Wyoming GOP expelled her from the state party.
Ms. Cheney has welcomed the fight, daring opponents to “bring it on.”
The response has further alienated her GOP critics. Baffled by her behavior, they say she has made a habit of disparaging conservative Republicans.
“We really don’t get it,” said Marti Halverson, chair of the Lincoln County, Wyoming, GOP. “The only thing we can assume by all this bridge-burning and hole-digging is that she is not going to run. We can’t explain it any other way.”
As a result, Ms. Halverson said the level of grassroots engagement is at an all-time high, including from people who she has known to be apolitical.
“I will meet them at the grocery store and it’s ‘Liz Cheney has to go,’ and it is ‘oh my gosh, I have never heard anything political come out of your mouth,’” she said. “Those that love Liz Cheney are seen by the majority of the Wyoming Republican Party as not supportive of our conservative base.”
Others, though, say Ms. Cheney’s actions have boosted her image in the eyes of a broad cross-section of voters, including Democrats.
“What strikes me about this almost on a daily basis is that finally we have a politician that is willing to stand on their convictions in the face of severe political consequences, and does it for the right reasons,” said Paul J. Ulrich, a veteran of the oil and gas industry in Wyoming. “We’ve been begging in this country for politicians that stand, that have strong integrity and have a backbone and stand up for what we hold the dearest, which is the Constitution and our democracy and we see that embodied in Liz.”
Mr. Ulrich, a lifelong Republican, said the race is bigger than Ms. Cheney and said many voters are begging for a return to more civil politics.
“For far too long in politics at any level, the very vocal minority has dominated media headlines, meetings, social media, etc,” he said. “It is time for that quiet majority to stand up for what we believe in.”
Ms. Cheney’s political future grew murky after Mr. Trump started airing his stolen-election claims that have become a rallying cry for his most fervent backers and fueled the Jan. 6 storming of the U.S. Capitol.
Ms. Cheney was among the 10 House Republicans who joined Democrats in voting to impeach Mr. Trump for inciting the Capitol mayhem.
The Wyoming GOP responded in February by censuring Ms. Cheney.
The House GOP conference, meanwhile, ousted Ms. Cheney from her post as Republican Conference Chair after she continued to criticize Mr. Trump over his election claims.
Despite the pushback, Ms. Cheney bucked her party again by accepting House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s appointment to a select committee investigating the events of Jan. 6.
Ms. Cheney’s relationship with the Wyoming GOP deteriorated more last month after the state party narrowly passed a resolution that said the party “refuses to personally recognize Representative Liz Cheney as a ‘REPUBLICAN’ Representative of Wyoming.”
The resolution cited, among other things, her “despicable personal behavior since her highly prejudicial and constitutionally offensive vote to impeach.”
Ms. Cheney has become a cause celebre for the anti-Trump forces in the Republican Party and won herself some goodwill among Democrats, including those who have despised her politics.
Her latest campaign finance report showed that through Sept. 30, she had raised $5.1 million for her re-election bid, including more than $1 million from donors in California, Virginia and New York.
Carbon County, Wyoming, GOP Chair Joey Correnti, who backed the anti-Cheney resolution, said Ms. Cheney‘s path to victory has narrowed a great deal.
“She still has support in the state, but she just doesn’t have conservative Republican support,” Mr. Correnti said. “I repeatedly see comments saying, ‘I am a registered Dem and I am proud to have Liz Cheney.’”
“All the Democrat support she has in theory and in ideology could be a boon to her - especially if there are three candidates in the primary,” he said. “There is a mathematical path, but I think fundamentally and ideologically the conservatives don’t want her.”
Dr. Joseph McGinley, a member of the Wyoming GOP state central committee, said most of the gripes about Ms. Cheney are coming from a small minority of Republicans who likely would not have voted for her regardless, and who are out for personal or political gain.
Mr. McGinley said it is nearly impossible for Ms. Cheney‘s rivals to attack her conservative credentials.
“They can’t say they are more conservative — that is for sure,” he said. “They can say President Trump endorsed me and I am not Liz Cheney, but that is about it.”
That could be enough, according to a recent SoCo Strategies poll that showed Ms. Cheney trailing Ms. Hageman by 18 points.
Mr. McGinley, though, remains optimistic about Ms. Cheney’s chances. He said time is on her side, and said as emotions settle down people will shift more attention toward policy.
“Even within the craziness of the state party, there is fatigue on the topic,” Mr. McGinley said. “People I think are getting tired of hearing about Rep. Cheney and the impeachment vote of President Trump.
“At some point, it has to come down to qualifications and credibility,” he said. “Time is definitely on Liz Cheney’s side. You can only name-call for so long.”