If you had asked me three weeks ago if U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney was beatable in her quest for reelection in 2022, I would have said “no way.”
Today, the landscape has shifted.
Former Pres. Donald Trump has retaken charge of the national Republican Party. He did that at the big CPAC meeting Feb. 28.
From that podium, he singled out Cheney as a “war-monger” and made it clear he is holding a world-class grudge against Wyoming’s sole U.S. Representative. Nobody holds a grudge better than Trump, and he is putting Liz into a special category. Like a crazed pit bull, he says he is coming for her.
When the U.S. House voted to impeach Trump in January, just 10 Republicans joined their 222 Democrat counterparts voting in favor. Cheney was the most prominent and has been vocal since then in defending her vote.
Trump is not alone in his disdain for Cheney. Almost half of Wyoming’s county Republican committees have censured Cheney (plus the state committee), and some even demanded she resign.
Trump wants to make an example out of his war with Cheney. Wyoming will be that battleground.
So, could the normally unbeatable Liz Cheney be defeated in 2022? It all comes down to Trump. First, he would have to designate a single Wyoming candidate he wants to support early, perhaps in the next few months. Then he would promote that single candidate and would come to Wyoming and hold rallies for that candidate.
He would also send in surrogates like Donald Trump Jr. to stump for this mystery candidate.
And, he would open the floodgates of campaign money to support this one, single Republican candidate for U.S. House in the Wyoming primary against Liz.
This strategy will see this mystery candidate’s popularity grow as he or she travels the state pressing the flesh and slamming Cheney over the next 16 months. Much of that Trump money will be used to finance the best ground game the state has ever seen — this is where the campaign literally goes door-to-door convincing every Wyoming citizen one-on-one to support this person.
By the time August of 2022 comes around, the polls could show the race a dead heat. Then Trump will fly back into Wyoming to administer the coup de grace. On election day, the mystery candidate will have defeated Liz with 43,000 votes to her 42,000 votes with a group of wannabes picking up the other 15,000 votes.
So, who will be the mystery candidate?
State Sen. Anthony Bouchard of Cheyenne has already picked up some national money as he is going full-bore into an anti-Cheney campaign. As the founder of the WYGO (Wyoming Gun Owners) group, he has access to thousands of die-hard supporters.
Rep. Chuck Gray of Casper has created a flashy TV ad on YouTube and is running full-tilt.
State Rep. Ocean Andrew was thought to be the beneficiary of U. S. Rep. Matt Gaetz’s (R-Florida) anti-Cheney visit to Cheyenne recently. Not sure if he is running. Any Republican who can win a House seat in liberal Albany County has some pulling power.
Brian Miller of Sheridan touts his military credentials. He ran a statewide primary campaign last year for U.S. Senate that was won by Cynthia Lummis in a landslide.
Darin Smith of Cheyenne has run for U.S. House before and is popular statewide. He also was campaign manager for Foster Friess’ gubernatorial race in 2018, when Friess finished second to Mark Gordon in the GOP primary.
Jillian Balow has expressed some interest. She has handled a difficult time as Superintendent of Public Instruction.
Two smart guys from Jackson with access to big campaign money would be Dave Dodson and Bob Grady. Dodson ran hard against John Barrasso for the U.S. Senate seat a few years ago and has that experience behind him. Grady is well-connected and savvy.
Without Trump singling out one of these guys or gals, all these candidates will then engage in the oh-so-common Republican firing squad. They get in a circle and start shooting. And Liz would emerge as a big winner in the end.
Whoever runs, Trump will need to open up his treasure chest. Cheney spent over $3 million last year defeating Democrat Lynnette Grey Bull. This was one of the highest amounts ever spent in a Wyoming race. Would a 2022 race cost $5 million? $10 million?
We are seeing lots of anti-Cheney sentiment around the state, but it will be to no avail without Donald Trump, himself, directing traffic.