- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 15, 2022

Rep. Tom Rice’s landslide loss in the South Carolina Republican primary could prove to be a bad omen for Rep. Liz Cheney‘s reelection push in Wyoming.

Mr. Rice and Ms. Cheney were among the 10 Republican House members who voted last year to impeach President Trump, and Mr. Rice is the first to fall in a primary. Four others decided to call it quits rather than face voters again.

That means half of Mr. Trump‘s most fervent House GOP opponents won’t be returning — but the scalp the former president really wants belongs to Ms. Cheney, daughter of former Vice President Richard B. Cheney.

She has been hoping her political brand is strong enough to withstand Mr. Trump‘s wrath, but analysts said Mr. Rice’s defeat should cause her worry.

“She just strikes me as someone who is ripe to fall and with the Tom Rice situation in South Carolina, I see a lot of parallels,” said John Couvillon, founder of JMC Analytics and Polling. “Congressman Rice was more low-key in his approach. He voted the way he did on impeachment, but he had not been overly antagonizing toward Trump in the way Liz Cheney has been. Still, it turns out it didn’t matter.”

Mr. Rice, a five-term member of Congress, was clobbered. He lost to state Rep. Russell Fry by a staggering 51% to 24.5% margin in a seven-person race.

However, Rep. Nancy Mace, another South Carolina Republican whom Mr. Trump targeted over her post-election criticism and her vote to certify President Biden’s election victory, survived her primary against a Trump-backed rival. Ms. Mace did not back his impeachment, though.

In neighboring Georgia, Gov. Brian Kemp and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, high-profile Republicans who earned Mr. Trump‘s ire for bucking his election-fraud claims, also comfortably survived pro-Trump primary challenges earlier this year.

Analysts said the lesson emerging from the primary season is that GOP candidates don’t have to fall in line with Mr. Trump, but they can’t be seen as outright hostile, particularly in deep-red areas.

Cheney‘s position is more similar to Rice’s than to Mace’s,” said James D. King, a political science professor at the University of Wyoming. “The bottom line is that it appears Cheney‘s chances for renomination have reduced.”

“Two months remain before Wyoming’s primary election, but my earlier confidence in Cheney‘s ability to withstand the challenge is waning,” he said.

Ms. Cheney is nonetheless staying the course, establishing herself as the most anti-Trump Republican on Capitol Hill, where she serves as vice chair of the committee that’s attempting to blame the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol squarely on Mr. Trump.

“President Trump‘s advisers knew what he was saying was false and they told him so directly and repeatedly,” Ms. Cheney said in a video posted after one of the panel’s recent hearings.

Ms. Cheney also hinted that the next hearing Thursday would focus on how the pressure Mr. Trump exerted on then-Vice President Mike Pence to refuse to count the Electoral College votes was “illegal” and likely violated two criminal statutes.

The Cheney campaign did not respond to a request for comment.

Joey Correnti IV, chairman of the Carbon County Wyoming Republican Party and fierce Cheney critic, said her role in the Jan. 6 committee is hurting her image in the eyes of voters who are far more concerned about inflation and the rising prices of gas and groceries.

“You are ignoring your constituents and you are unilaterally focusing on something that doesn’t affect us as much as the economy and policies that affect the oil and gas industry,” Mr. Correnti said. “It is all a game. It is basically a prime-time campaign ad for people like Liz Cheney.”

She has drawn four challengers, including Harriet Hageman, who has won the blessing of Mr. Trump.

Tim Murtaugh, an adviser to the Hageman campaign and former Trump spokesperson, said voters in Wyoming are “fed up with Liz Cheney.”

Liz Cheney has burned her Republican relationships in Congress, and the Democrats will discard her as soon as she‘s no longer useful,” he said. “She can’t be effective for Wyoming any more.”

One of the 10 Republicans to back impeachment, Rep. David Valadao, survived his “jungle primary” in California, which pits all candidates against each other regardless of party and then has the top two run off in November.

He faces Democrat Rudy Salas, who was the top vote-getter in the primary.

Mr. Trump did not pick a candidate in that race.

Still to come are primaries for Reps. Jaime Herrera Beutler and Dan Newhouse, both of Washington, and Peter Meijer of Michigan. Both those men do face Trump-backed rivals.

• Seth McLaughlin can be reached at smclaughlin@washingtontimes.com.

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