- - Friday, August 19, 2022

Supporters of former President Donald Trump were understandably elated to see Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney go down in flames in her primary this week. Conservative punditry was also celebrating the demise of one of Mr. Trump’s most vocal opponents and ambassador extraordinary of the old guard Republican establishment.

Ask anyone who’s ever left public office or the day-to-day block and tackle of politics, either willingly or not, and they’d likely describe realizing a sense of freedom. For the embattled congresswoman, who went from being the number three Republican in House leadership to defeated pariah in the space of 18 months, that freedom means a second act. She’s certainly not going away.

Ms. Cheney not only is now unencumbered by official duties, but the wealthy, heavily networked resident of tony McLean, Virginia, has a sense of clarity of purpose that may be a trap for Mr. Trump.

The left-wing media will doubtless be falling all over themselves to give her a contributor contract. The book agents are salivating to be sure. But for all those who naively expected her to just disappear, she will likely be more vocal and visible than ever before.

Her goal is not dissimilar to the goal of Democrats goading Mr. Trump to run again. Hit the former president in his ego, making it all but impossible for him to pass on another chance for a second term, while driving up his negatives with key voter demographics.

Ms. Cheney no longer needs to speak to GOP primary voters. She’s smart enough to know they won’t respond to her message. But more moderate Republicans, independents and women are still prime targets for her mission and message to keep Mr. Trump from the Oval Office. 

Should she decide to actually run for president in 2024, her goal would never be to win the presidency.

Her purpose would be clear. Just like the real intentions of the Jan. 6 hearings, the objective would be to make Mr. Trump unelectable. For Democrats, the intention is holding on to the presidency after four years of Mr. Biden’s seat filler leadership.

For Ms. Cheney, it’s about a Republican bloodletting that reduces Mr. Trump’s influence on the party going forward.

Imagine the political circus of the beefy 6-foot, 3-inch former president standing on a debate stage next to Ms. Cheney as she calmy attacks him. Should Mr. Trump be true to form and insult and belittle Ms. Cheney, MAGA world will eat it up with a spoon, but the optics could cut sharply against his already tenuous standing with those key independents, suburban voters and women.

If Ms. Cheney has learned anything from her father, it’s that politics is about winning the elections that happen in November.

Both of these people live rent free in each other’s heads. That means the temptation for lashing out will be enormous. Ms. Cheney has little left to lose. For Mr. Trump the stakes are much higher.

The trap for him would be making the mistake of seeing her as only the unofficial spokesperson of the anti-Trump movement.

Like her or not, Ms. Cheney is a policy wonk. She’s smart and disciplined. She’s a mother of five. With a calm, substantive delivery perfected to some degree by her father, she could infuriate Mr. Trump to the point where he ends up reinforcing the boorish personality that is a turnoff to many of the voters he needs to stage a comeback.

For the vanquished congresswoman, that may be all she needs to do to exact her own bit of revenge. The big question isn’t whether she runs for office again. It’s whether Mr. Trump can’t help himself from falling into her trap.   

• Tom Basile is the host of “America Right Now” on Newsmax Television, an author and a former Bush administration official.

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