Six years ago, Donald Trump and Liz Cheney were elected on the same day. Cheney has consistently won with more than 60 percent of the vote in Wyoming’s At-Large House district races, and in 2020, she almost topped 70 percent, just shy of then-President Donald Trump’s percentage of the vote in that election.
But in the two years since the 2020 election, Cheney has devoted herself to the ongoing prosecution of Trump, culminating in her participation in the January 6 Committee and their hearings. Her goal, along with fellow anti-Trump Republican Adam Kinzinger, has been to tell America how awful Trump is and how he is a treasonous insurrectionist. She has made it her mission to try to convince Republicans that Trump is poison.
In the wake of her crusade, Harriet Hageman, a former Cheney ally, is running to take Cheney’s spot in Wyoming’s lone Congressional seat. Hageman is clearly doing a good job of convincing Wyoming primary voters to do so – she is up 29 points in the latest University of Wyoming poll and averaging more than 25 points in the RealClearPolitics average. The UW poll notes that there is simply not enough Democratic crossover vote to save Cheney, even when Democratic powerhouses like disgraced Senator Al Franken endorse her.
It would be very easy to say that this is simply a matter of pro-Trump versus anti-Trump and to claim that Trump is still clearly running the party at the base level. But there is something else that needs to be taken into account here. And, it’s something that even CNN has picked up on.
Yet here in Wyoming, Hageman is seen as far more than Trump’s hand-picked candidate.
She grew up on her family’s small ranch near Fort Laramie, population 207, not far from the state’s border with Nebraska. Long before her fight with Cheney, Hageman gained prominence as a natural resources attorney, specializing on cases protecting the state’s water, public lands and agriculture.
Hageman declined to answer questions when CNN caught up with her in Rock Springs, a coal mining town in the southwestern part of the state, saying only: “This race is about Wyoming, nothing else.”
The race, of course, has become about far more. But several Wyoming voters this week said they appreciated the attention Hageman was devoting to energy, agriculture and other issues of direct importance to the state.
Liz Cheney has focused entirely on Washington D.C. and, as a result, she has lost the ability to connect with her voters, and Hageman has a long history of working on the issues important to Wyoming voters. She has been on the ground in the state while Cheney has been preaching in prime time television that the person 70 percent of the state voted for was a bad person and that Republicans supporting him were also bad. Meanwhile, Hageman has made this about her state.
This election is about the people of Wyoming. It’s about having someone to fight for you. pic.twitter.com/EMRb4kOUPs
— Harriet Hageman – Text WYOMING to 90103 (@HagemanforWY) August 8, 2022
So-called “moderate” Republicans have constantly made this mistake. Cheney undoubtedly wants to be re-elected, thinking she is doing the right thing by going after Trump (we can argue if doing so is, in fact, the right thing some other time). But, the problem is that in attacking Trump, she is attacking the voters of her state. The people of Wyoming don’t like the implication that they are a threat to democracy if they support Trump.
“Republicans cannot both be loyal to Donald Trump and loyal to the Constitution,” Cheney said, not too long ago, in a speech at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum in California. This line of rhetoric is specifically alienating to the very people who put her in office. She can be as unhappy as she wants about what her voters believe or don’t believe, but Donald Trump isn’t doing this to her. She is doing it to herself.
It’s one thing to have voted for impeachment. It’s another to throw away the support your state has had for you by repeatedly attacking them through their support of Trump. You can make a point about needing to move forward without making your entire existence about Trump. Several Republicans have proven it’s possible. But joining in a Democrat Party assault on the entire Republican base is hardly the way to win the votes you need to stay in office.
When you try to be a moderate, you end up telling both sides that they shouldn’t vote for you, and the majority of those who aren’t aligned with a particular party choose their sides based on what the parties have done or haven’t done. Most voters have made their choices based on current policies and the current state of affairs. Far fewer voters are making decisions based on the political climate in Washington D.C.
Cheney chose D.C. over Wyoming. As a result, she’s staring down a humiliating defeat, though she’ll call it martyrdom rather than embarrassment.