“This is our great task and we will be victorious. I hope you join me in this fight,” Cheney concluded.
Cheney is looking well beyond Tuesday’s Republican primary for this state’s major seat in the US House, a race she is likely to lose, barring an unprecedented wave of non-Republican voters in the GOP contest.
She entered Congress six years ago as a relative celebrity, the daughter of the former vice president who for years used Fox News appearances to criticize the Obama-Biden administration. And she will leave the Capitol, probably in 4½ months, as the face of an anti-Trump movement that has cost her old alliances but left her new supporters clamoring for another act that is more nationally focused.
“I really hope she runs for president,” said James Rooks, who was elected to the Jackson City Council as a self-proclaimed “fierce independent,” as he watched Snow King Mountain in a coffee shop.
Cheney has been questioning her aspirations since she first took office, but the intensity increased after this summer’s blockbuster hearings, in which she served as vice chair of the committee investigating the ex-president’s role in the January 6, 2021 uprising. examined. the United States Capitol.
“I will make a decision in 2024,” she told CNN in late July.
But Cheney is keen when it comes to her chances of actually winning the presidential nomination in a party that friends and advisers say remains so loyal to former President Donald Trump. She sees her future role similar to how she sees the work of the Jan. 6 commission: blocking every path for Trump back to the Oval Office.
“It’s about the danger he poses to the country, and that he can’t come close to that power anymore,” she told a crowd of supporters in Cheyenne just before the committee hearings kicked off in early June.
Traditional anti-Trump conservatives have already discussed the possibility of Cheney running for the White House. “That chatter was very strong even before that Dick Cheney commercial,” Dmitri Mehlhorn said, referring to a campaign ad that ran nationwide on Fox News denouncing the former Vice President Trump.
Mehlhorn advises several donors on the political spectrum who oppose Trump, including billionaire LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman. Most are willing to provide critical financing for a bid from Cheney.
In that regard, Cheney will spend the months after the commission concludes its work later this year figuring out her next steps. That could be launching a political organization that targets Trump, or a think tank work linked to media appearances.
But Cheney and a small but influential bloc of anti-Trump Republicans have decided there must be a 2024 candidate who will act as a brazen opponent of both the ex-president and other contenders spouting his falsehoods about the 2020 election. .
This anti-Trump group fears a repeat of the 2016 campaign, in which rivals did not attack Trump’s unorthodox behavior and positions until it was too late. The emerging Republican presidential field of 2024 consists of the former president, his allies who want to emulate him, and a collection of other Republicans courting non-Trump voters, but without forcefully denouncing Trump.
Cheney and her mob want a candidate who would serve as a mere political kamikaze, blow up his or her candidacy, but also take down Trump.
“You need that. I think it has to be someone who’s willing to take the booing, take the screaming,” Rep. Adam Kinzinger (Ill.), the only other Republican on the Jan. 6 committee, said in a recent interview. “someone [who] being on stage and just telling people the truth, I think that would have a huge impact.”
Mehlhorn said his team of anti-Trump donors would take a Cheney campaign designed solely to attack Trump “seriously” enough to put at least $20 million behind it.
That way, he said, “Republican voters are reminded of how bad Trump is in a way that could allow someone else to get out of the primary.”
Cheney has been very outspoken in her condemnations of House Minority leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and other Republicans who have remained loyal to Trump despite his help in hastening the attack on the Capitol.
But she is also angry at a separate group of Republicans who despise Trump but instead hope the ex-president will simply disappear, most notably Senate Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).
“Where Kevin is a full public embrace is McConnell: ignore and hope he goes away. And that just doesn’t work,” Cheney told the authors of ‘This Will Not Pass,’ a book about the fallout from the 2020 election.
But Cheney’s unique focus on preventing Trump from being re-elected has come at a high cost. Her political world is turned upside down.
Over the weekend, McCarthy began hosting his annual big donor party in Teton Village, less than 15 miles north of Cheney’s polling station. It’s the same place where Cheney and her father staged a $1 million fundraiser together on behalf of Trump in August 2019, but the resort’s owner has since denounced Cheney and backs her challenger, Trump-backed Harriet Hageman.
In lieu of her traditional support from the GOP, Cheney is trying to rally tens of thousands of Democrats and Independents across Wyoming to step up to the Republican primary.
Anecdotally, local liberals are baffled by: their rush of support after decades of seeing the Cheney family as the political enemy.
“I can’t believe I’m thinking about this. This world is insane,” Diana Welch, an adviser to Christy Walton, a billionaire heir to the Walmart fortune, recalled. But last Monday, Welch happily co-hosted an event in nearby Wilson, where Democrats, including local elected officials, outnumbered Republicans.
Alli Noland, a local public relations executive, spent years as a Democrat, but eventually gave up a few years ago because the GOP primaries were so critical in this deeply conservative state.
She now hosts regular gatherings at the Stagecoach Bar just outside of Jackson for liberals interested in learn how to support Cheney.
And there are the likes of Mike May, who told his friends Saturday night how, since the early days of the Bush-Cheney administration, he owned a Volkswagen bus with a blunt bumper sticker: “Cheney is a creep.”
His more traditional truck now has a “Cheney for Wyoming” decal on it. He said he attended Monday’s event to thank her for standing up to Trump.
According to state data, the shift is real.
On January 1, the Republicans had more than 196,000 registered voters, while the Democrats had about 46,000. On August 1, Republicans gained 11,000 new voters, while Democrats lost 6,000 and voters not affiliated with either party dropped 2,000.
Traditionally the only liberal-oriented place in Wyoming, Teton County now has more registered Republicans than Democrats, and voters can switch sides until Tuesday’s primary.
The Teton County Clerk, Maureen Murphy, reported a stunning early vote tilt toward Republicans: By the end of Friday, 3,259 votes had been cast in the GOP primaries and just 166 in the Democratic contests.
Cheney supporters believe those numbers indicate a real increase in crossover voters. Jackson’s councilman Rooks has been converting for Democrats and independents in recent weeks to join him in crossing over to the GOP primaries, with great success.
“I have two friends who just can’t do it,” Rooks said, remembering someone entering an early polling station and running away without voting for Cheney.
Republican friends are much harder to sell, he said. “I might as well try telling them to expose their faith.”
That deters Noland, who warns that the push to get non-Republicans in the primaries has only driven traditional GOP voters out of Cheney. “It really woke up all Republicans,” she said.
If Cheney loses the usual Wyoming Republicans by a 2-to-1 margin, as polls suggest, she would need something along the lines of 40,000 Democrats and Independents to cross over — an insanely high number in a state where only 115,000 voted in the last interim GOP primary.
Even these crossover voters, like Patrice Kangas, have moved beyond Tuesday’s results and want to know what comes next. As she told the Stagecoach, she waited in line to meet Cheney for a while after Monday’s event ended and finally asked if she wanted to run for president.
“Go big?” said Kanga.
“Oh,” Cheney replied, “I don’t know yet.”
Hannah Knowles contributed from Washington