Cheney Faces Blowback For Trump Vote 01/28 06:29
CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) -- When Liz Cheney, the third-ranking Republican in the
House of Representatives, decided to vote to impeach a president from her own
party, she knew she'd cause some waves. She might not have expected the seismic
impact at home.
But Cheney's vote against Donald Trump has put her home state of Wyoming ---
by some measures the most Republican state in the country --- on the front
lines of the GOP civil war. The rising GOP leader and daughter of a former vice
president is now facing the prospect of censure from the state party, a primary
challenge and the wrath of Trump and his loyalists vowing to make her pay.
On Thursday, Rep. Matt Gaetz, an ardent Trump ally from Florida, will stage
a rally in Cheyenne at the Capitol, taking the fight to oust Cheney from her
leadership post to her home turf and calling on "patriots" to turn out. House
Republicans are expected to decide next week whether to strip Cheney of her job
as House conference chair.
Cheney's fate at home and in Washington will be one indicator of whether GOP
traditionalists or Trump-aligned activists determine the direction of the
party. Her troubles have already served as a warning for Republicans in the
Senate, most of whom signaled Tuesday they would vote to acquit Trump on the
charge of inciting an insurrection. Meanwhile, Trump's political action
committee, Save America, is using a poll it commissioned on Cheney's popularity
with Wyoming voters to taunt her --- and show other Republicans what may lie
ahead when they don't support Trump.
Cheney's defenders have sought to cast the blowback from her vote as ginned
up by attention-seekers. "Wyoming doesn't like it when outsiders come into our
state and try to tell us what to do," said Amy Edmonds, a former Cheney staffer
and past state legislator, pointedly at Gaetz.
But there's little doubt the lawmaker in her third term is facing homegrown
opposition in a state where the establishment's once-firm grip has been
Republican state Sen. Anthony Bouchard, a gun rights activist, announced his
primary challenge against Cheney one week after her impeachment vote, making a
clear effort to rally Trump fans.
"The swamp was after me," Bouchard said of his recent reelection to the
statehouse despite being badly outspent by a Democrat. "I just don't think that
works any more in Wyoming. I think the people have figured it out."
To be sure, Bouchard, who is little known outside the Cheyenne area, has a
steep climb ahead. He is a relative political newcomer who raised just $12,000
for his last race. (Cheney amassed $2.5 million.) He says he may show up at the
rally Thursday, one way to start raising his profile. Other Republicans are
likely to jump in during the coming months.
Still, few imagined Cheney would draw a challenger after winning the state's
only congressional seat with a majority close to Trump's --- 70%, more than any
Cheney spent the last four years dancing around Trump. She largely dodged
questions about his racist comments and hard-line immigration moves, while
occasionally criticizing his foreign policy. She called his decision to
withdraw U.S. troops from northern Syria "sickening." When Trump began urging
lawmakers to reject the Electoral College vote, she wrote a memo warning of a
"tyranny of Congress."
But Cheney, whose father held her seat for 10 years and who was raised in
part in the Washington suburbs, described Trump's actions on Jan. 6 as a
breaking point. Trump called on supporters to "fight" to overturn his election
loss, in a speech shortly before rioters stormed the Capitol in an insurrection
that led to five deaths. Notably, Trump called Cheney out by name in his
speech, telling his backers they should work to get rid of the lawmakers who
"aren't any good, the Liz Cheneys of the world."
Cheney says she voted her conscience without regard for political
"It was something that I did with a heavy heart, but I did with a real
understanding of the seriousness and the gravity of the moment," Cheney said
the day of the vote. "My oath to the Constitution is one I can't walk away
from, is one I can't violate."
She has since sought to marshal the state's sizable Republican establishment
in her defense. Aides have circulated approving editorials and letters to the
editor, and long lists of supporters. Those backers include Gov. Mark Gordon,
Sen. John Barrasso and Sen. Cynthia Lummis, who was one of just eight senators
to vote against certifying Electoral College results in battleground states in
the riot's aftermath.
Cheney also has the support of two influential state interest groups: the
Petroleum Association of Wyoming and Wyoming Mining Association.
That backing may be crucial as Wyoming prepares to fight new regulations
from President Joe Biden's administration that could hurt the struggling oil,
gas and coal industries that are a pillar of the state's economy.
"Intraparty fighting and blind obsession with retribution for perceived
slights are not going to bring back one single job," said Matt Micheli, a
Cheney ally and former state GOP chair.
But in Wyoming, as in many states, the divide between traditional GOP
interests and Trump-aligned, far-right activists is wide.
Local Republican Party officials in three of Wyoming's 23 counties have
voted to censure Cheney for her impeachment vote. In a fourth, Republicans at
an informal meet-and-greet Monday held an unofficial straw poll ahead of plans
for a formal censure vote.
"Based on what I saw last night, whew, it's going to be overwhelmingly
anti-Liz Cheney," said Bob Rule, a radio station owner and GOP precinct
committee member in western Wyoming's sparsely populated Sublette County, a
gas-drilling hotspot. "They felt she used her own personal feelings about the
situation and not the feelings of the people of Wyoming."
Several of the three dozen or so people at the meet-and-greet in the town of
Marbleton, population 1,400, were newcomers there out of opposition to Cheney's
vote, Rule added.
The Republican State Central Committee could take up censuring Cheney when
it meets in early February, though state GOP Chair Frank Eathorne declined to
speculate whether it would happen.
Plenty of voters are suddenly receptive to the idea of not just politically
dinging Cheney but also giving her the boot.
"I made a mistake voting for her," said Misty Shassetz, 43, a grocery store
employee in Casper.
"This is Trump country, you know, that's who we voted for. What she did was
wrong. I just feel like the voters need somebody who actually speaks for the
voters," Shassetz said. "And she is not it."
Cheney has some time to try to win back voters like Shassetz, notes Don
Warfield, a retired public relations consultant.
"If people are still as angry in the summer of 2022 as they are now, Liz
Cheney faces some real problems," Warfield said.