Would a Liz Cheney presidential bid change anything?

Donald Trump and Liz Cheney.
Donald Trump and Liz Cheney. Illustrated | Getty Images

Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) this week lost her Republican primary in a massive landslide, but the staunch critic of former President Donald Trump said her fight for traditional conservative values — and against Trump — was "just beginning." Cheney, who voted to impeach Trump for inciting the Jan. 6 Capitol attack and is now vice chair of the House committee investigating it, said Trump "continues to pose a very grave threat — a risk to our republic." She said on NBC's Today that she would focus now on "doing whatever it takes to keep Donald Trump out of the Oval Office," possibly by running for president herself.

The Wyoming Republican, once a rising leader of her party, said she would "make a decision in the coming months" about whether to launch a campaign for the White House. Trump has hinted that he's preparing to run in 2024. Cheney hasn't said whether she was thinking about challenging Trump in the Republican primary, or running as an independent. Kyle Kondik, the managing editor of the Crystal Ball political analysis newsletter at the University of Virginia, told USA Today that Cheney would "probably get a very small slice of the vote" and "hurt the Democrats more than the Republicans given her current standing." But GOP consultant Alex Conant told The Wall Street Journal that her "laser focus on Trump and ability to command media attention means she could be a significant factor in 2024." Would Cheney make a difference if she ran for the White House?

Cheney's attacks could weaken Trump

Cheney 2024 could be a first in American politics, says Ronald Brownstein at The Atlantic. "A true kamikaze campaign." Nobody, including Cheney, would expect her to "come anywhere close to winning the GOP nomination behind an anti-Trump message." Only two of the 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump will be around to "face voters in November" — four retired and four lost their primaries — and Trump-endorsed candidates who "overtly echo his lies" about the 2020 election being stolen from him are winning everywhere. "But many Republicans resistant to Trump believe that Cheney could rally the minority of party voters who continue to express reservations about the former president." She has the name recognition — her father, Dick Cheney, is a former vice president, after all — to mount a serious fundraising campaign, and, as GOP consultant Alex Conant put it, "Every other candidate not named Trump is going to want Liz Cheney on the debate stage." Her "battering-ram attacks" might just weaken Trump enough for someone else to win the GOP nomination.

It would be a risky move

A recent poll showed Cheney in fourth place with 3 percent backing in a GOP primary, behind Trump, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, and former Vice President Mike Pence, says Aaron Blake in The Washington Post. A showing like that "could be enough to put Cheney on the debate stage." The party might try to exclude her, but "shutting her out won't be easy" if she's leading other credible candidates. "Imagine Cheney pressing the case against Trump not just in Jan. 6 committee hearings, but also doing it to his face." GOP primary voters seldom hear "counterprogramming on Trump" due to "our siloed conservative media" and the unwillingness of other Republicans to "truly go after Trump," so Cheney's "stop Trump" message might move the needle. But her candidacy could backfire. She could "prove a beneficial foe for Trump — a bogeywoman who exemplifies the kind of weak-kneed Republicans who would dare to align with Democrats, of all people." And if she made a third-party run, hoping to split conservatives, her numbers suggest she'd "appeal more to Democratic-leaning voters than to Republican ones."

Cheney won't stop Trump by running against him

Cheney wants to keep Trump out of the White House. "Fair enough," says Ed Morrissey at Hot Air. But launching her own presidential campaign is her worst option for "pursuing that goal." She doesn't have the national constituency for that. Tuesday's vote showed "she doesn't even have a statewide constituency any longer." About the only followers she has left are in the media, which rallied behind her "as a David against a GOP Goliath." But a "fawning" press corps won't "impress Republican primary voters." An independent run would be doomed to make Evan McMullin's "2016 bid look like an electoral juggernaut." If Cheney really wants to have an impact, she should "simply endorse Republican primary challengers that can defeat Trump in the primaries. There's a real question as to whether a Cheney endorsement would help someone like Ron DeSantis or Glenn Youngkin, to name a couple of potential challengers, but they're more likely to 'stop' Trump by beating him to the nomination than a Liz Cheney challenge."

Democrats need to get over their infatuation with Cheney

Cheney deserves praise for her "courage in standing up to Trump," says Celia Viggo Wexler at NBCNews.com. Her "star power" has been crucial for the Jan. 6 hearings. "She's been that rara avis, a Republican lawmaker with both a conscience and a backbone — solemnly warning her cowardly colleagues: 'There will come a day when Donald Trump is gone, but your dishonor will remain.'" But Democrats who have become infatuated with her should remember her record in three terms in Congress has matched Trump's positions 93 percent of the time. Cheney opposed the Violence Against Women Act, the Affordable Care Act — "voting for Trump's plan to dismantle it" — and is a "hardliner on immigration." She's "Trump without the lying, bullying, and immorality." Remember, Cheney backed Trump in 2016, and was a latecomer "to the anti-Trump party." Kudos to Cheney for defending the Constitution and trying to reform the GOP. "By all means, give the woman the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Just don't give her the keys to the White House."

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