GOP Rep. Liz Cheney Elizabeth (Liz) Lynn Cheney House Republicans call for inspector general investigation of Afghanistan troop withdrawal Press: Why is Mo Brooks still in the House? 3 in 4 say removal of US troops from Afghanistan has gone badly: poll MORE is facing a wave of primary challengers at home as the Wyoming congresswoman and avowed Trump critic takes center stage with the start of the Jan. 6 select committee hearings.
Cheney, who hails from a storied Wyoming family and boasts a staunchly conservative voting record, has found herself fighting for her political life thanks to her vocal and repeated rebukes of former President Trump Donald Trump Walensky says ‘now is the time’ to tackle gun violence: report Banks fights Jan. 6 committee effort to seek lawmaker records Biden to raise pay for federal employees effective Jan. 1. MORE over his role in the Jan. 6 insurrection.
The first hearing before the select committee, which was formed by Speaker Nancy Pelosi Nancy Pelosi On The Money: Powell signals Fed will soon cut stimulus Banks fights Jan. 6 committee effort to seek lawmaker records Photos of the Week: Afghanistan evacuees, Paralympics and the French fire MORE (D-Calif.) to investigate Trump's role in the riot, comes the same week the former president is meeting with some of Cheney's GOP challengers at his New Jersey golf club, raising enthusiasm — and expectations — among her detractors.
"When she goes out and does a press conference every week slamming [Trump] and joins Pelosi's committee and basically does everything in her power possible to infuriate the base, voters are seeing that and they're reacting very negatively to it," one national GOP strategist said.
Cheney is facing a total of eight primary challengers, including state Sen. Anthony Bouchard (R), state Rep. Chuck Gray (R) and former Pavillion, Wyo., Mayor Marissa Joy Selvig.
Gray and Bouchard reported major fundraising hauls in the second quarter of this year. Bouchard brought in $213,000 during the period and has raised more than half a million dollars since January. Gray's campaign said he raised $220,000 during the quarter.
Those numbers follow a decisive victory by Trump in Wyoming during last year's election. The former president won about 70 percent of the vote in the state, his best showing of any of the 50 states.
And beyond the campaign trail, the blowback against Cheney has also cost her dearly in terms of her standing in Congress. House Republicans earlier this year voted to remove her from her post as the No. 3 Republican in the chamber, moving her from a top perch on leadership to the back bench.
But Cheney has made it clear she's not backing down.
The Wyoming congresswoman, along with fellow Republican Rep. Adam Kinzinger Adam Daniel Kinzinger Kinzinger calls on Biden to respond to Kabul explosion Press: Why is Mo Brooks still in the House? Jan. 6 committee to seek lawmaker records MORE (Ill.), accepted Pelosi's invitation to serve on the select committee, earning them the nickname "Pelosi Republicans" from House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy Kevin McCarthy Photos of the Week: Afghanistan evacuees, Paralympics and the French fire McCarthy: ‘There will be a day of reckoning’ for Biden Overnight Defense & National Security: Terror in Kabul as explosions kill and injure hundreds MORE (R-Calif.).
Cheney did not hold back in her opening remarks on Monday, warning that a "cancer" will remain in the U.S. until everyone who played a part in the Capitol riot testifies before the committee and is held accountable. She added that those who do not cooperate should be subpoenaed.
"The American people deserve the full and open testimony of every person with knowledge of the planning and preparation for Jan. 6," Cheney said. "We must also know what happened every minute of that day in the White House — every phone call, every conversation, every meeting leading up to, during and after the attack. Honorable men and women have an obligation to step forward."
Those remarks Thursday were only her latest on the insurrection, including many that lay the blame for the mob squarely at Trump's feet.
"There's no question the president formed the mob, the president incited the mob, the president addressed the mob. He lit the flame," she said the day the Capitol was ransacked.
Those rebukes of Trump have ginned up the electoral storm facing Cheney.
"There is not one strategist who is in the business of winning elections who would recommend that you do what she has done," the national GOP strategist said.
"I think if a Democrat runs a primary solely focused on bashing former President Obama, they're probably not going to win that primary," the person added. "You don't run your whole primary campaign based on bashing one of the most popular figures in your party. It's not a good electoral strategy."
The former president and his son Donald Trump Jr., who spends time in Wyoming to fish and hunt, are likely to make multiple visits there ahead of the primary next year, according to a source with ties to the Trumps. The challenger who earns Trump's endorsement is also expected to enjoy a boost from associated ad campaigns and fundraising pushes.
Trump has already met with a number of candidates at his Bedminster golf club, including Newsmax contributor Catherine O'Neill on Monday and state Sen. Bo Biteman, Gray and attorney Darin Smith on Tuesday. Bouchard is not meeting with Trump this week, but a meeting in the future is not off the table.
"This race is one of, if not the most important, race to President Trump and to Don Jr. and to much of the conservative movement," the source added.
A Trump aide told The Hill that the former president also views Cheney's ouster as a top priority given that a victory over someone with her standing would demonstrate his role as the GOP's de facto leader.
Insiders in Washington, D.C., and Wyoming acknowledge that Cheney is facing one of the toughest primaries of her political life to date but argue she could benefit from the potential voter split among her eight challengers.
"There's not really people rallying around the other candidates, so you're not seeing a huge amount of support for Bouchard or Gray or one of them," said Mark Christensen, the former commissioner of Campbell County, Wyo., and a Cheney ally.
Christensen noted that much of the attention garnered by the group of challengers hasn't been inspired by them, but rather the "anti-Cheney Trump backlash."
"The former president has really ramped up the anti-Cheney rhetoric," Christensen said.
"I don't think they're organized, and they can't decide who they like," he added, referring to the state's conservative base.
On top of that, early opposition research on several of Cheney's challengers has already surfaced, possibly giving the incumbent ammunition to bash her would-be replacement. Among the comments from the candidates surfaced in a recent Daily Beast piece are some winking at the QAnon conspiracy theory, supporting baseless assertions that Trump won the 2020 presidential race and calling to prosecute government workers over claims they threw the November election.
"They all, essentially — as evidenced by the fact that they were all trying to do a political version of 'The Apprentice' in Bedminster — highlight that problem," said GOP strategist Doug Heye of the crowded field. "Just as they're all competing for the same endorsement, they're all competing for the same vote. … And from what I've seen, some of these candidates, it's a crazy train."
And despite facing fierce backlash from the conservative base, Cheney remains no electoral slouch in her own right. Her name recognition rings across the state as the daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, and her reputation as a prolific fundraiser has held true, with her campaign bringing in nearly $1.9 million in second quarter 2021.
That combination of historic ties to Wyoming and vast funds to draw from virtually ensures that Cheney will be at least competitive in a primary.
"She's going to be who she is and she's going to talk about what she's done specifically for Wyoming, which I don't think any of her opponents really can do. So it's going to be a tough race, but she'll have good messaging, and she'll be well-funded," Heye said.
For her part, Cheney has boasted confidence in her position heading into her reelection bid.
Her campaign did not make someone available for an interview with The Hill but pointed to an interview Cheney did with NBC's "Today" in May in which she issued a blunt message: "Bring it on."
"If they think that they're going to come into Wyoming and make the argument that the people of Wyoming should vote for someone who is loyal to Donald Trump over somebody who's loyal to the Constitution, I welcome that debate," she said.
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