A Liz Cheney primary loss in Wyoming won't mark the end of her fight against Trump nor her political career: 'I wouldn't be surprised to see her run for president'

·7 min read
Liz Cheney
Rep. Liz Cheney at a January 6 committee hearing on July 21.AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite
  • Liz Cheney will continue her fight against Trump even if she loses her Wyoming primary on Tuesday.

  • Cheney allies believe she has a bright future even if she loses, floating a presidential candidacy.

  • "We'll see what happens, but I don't think she's gone by any means. I wouldn't be surprised to see her run for president," Sen. Mitt Romney said.

The bitter feud between former President Donald Trump and Rep. Liz Cheney will come to a head on Tuesday as Wyoming voters decide who takes the victory lap in the high-profile Republican primary. But no matter the outcome, their rivalry — and Cheney's future in politics — is far from over.

Cheney, a member of a political dynasty, has called herself the "underdog" in the Wyoming race. Trump, still a force in the GOP, has fiercely attacked her. Her fellow Republicans in Congress and some in Wyoming have repudiated her. She's polling behind her Trump-backed opponent Harriet Hageman. As vice chairperson of the House select committee investigating the January 6, 2021, Capitol riot, Cheney has helped conduct eight public hearings designed to show Trump's culpability, but they've so far failed to dramatically shift public opinion. Her campaign has reached out to Democrats in the red state to win more votes.

Though if Cheney loses, she is widely expected to stay in the spotlight and continue her fight to rid the Republican Party of Trump.

The three-term lawmaker has repeatedly expressed her commitment to calling out Trump's 2020 election lies, pinning responsibility on him for the Capitol attack, and casting him as a "threat" to the country. In her latest campaign ad released Thursday, Cheney pledged to "work every day to ensure that our exceptional nation long endures."

"No matter how long we must fight, this is a battle we will win," she added.

And besides remaining a fixture of national politics, Cheney's allies believe she has a bright career ahead even if she's ousted from Congress. Some are floating possibilities like a presidential candidacy or a top post in a future Republican administration.

"I hope she wins. I've hosted fundraisers for her. But I recognize that in the time of Trump that may not be possible," Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah, a notable critic of the former president, told Insider. "We'll see what happens, but I don't think she's gone by any means. I wouldn't be surprised to see her run for president."

Wyoming campaign poster
A campaign poster reads "Cheney for Wyoming" in Wyoming on May 27.Oma Seddiq/Insider

What could be next for Cheney?

The 56-year-old congresswoman, who grew up in the political sphere as the daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, has quickly cultivated a national presence in the past year, making her well-positioned for life after the primary.

Her campaign has been more about defending the Constitution and the peaceful transfer of power – messaging that's attracted bipartisan support nationwide – and less about bread-and-butter issues in Wyoming. Some of Cheney's record $13 million fundraising haul, raked in from both Republican and Democratic donors across the country, could possibly be used for a future campaign. As Trump hints at a 2024 run, Cheney says her top priority is ensuring he never gets near the Oval Office again.

"Would she want to win her primary? Absolutely. But it's also about a lot more than that for her. It's why she's campaigning in a different way than really anyone else who's running for reelection," Doug Heye, a longtime Republican strategist, told Insider. Regardless of the results, Cheney has demonstrated that she's "not going to go away quietly – that this is a longer-term fight," he added.

To be sure, Cheney has asserted that she intends to get re-elected. She's tried to avoid entertaining conversations about her future if she's defeated by Hageman, a natural resources lawyer and former Republican National Committeewoman. Still, Cheney has not been immune to the 2024 talks and has left the door open for a run. She's warned her party not to elect Trump, should he choose to launch a third campaign, as its nominee.

"I'll make a decision about '24 down the road," she told ABC News in July.

Cheney's allies want her to endure as Wyoming's member of Congress but are also encouraged by the possibility of her running for the White House.

"I'd like to see her win the election. If she doesn't, I think she would be a great presidential candidate in '24," Joe McGinley, state committeeman of Wyoming's Natrona County Republican Party, told Insider. "Having someone that is willing to be pragmatic and work through problems is what we're missing right now in our country. I think Cheney would be a great opportunity to bridge the gap between Democrats, Republicans, independents."

"I think she has a bright future still ahead in politics and within the Republican party," he added.

Liz Cheney
Rep. Liz Cheney at the Reagan Library in Simi Valley, California on June 29.Richard Harbaugh/ABC via Getty Images

'I hope her star continues to rise'

It's unclear whether there would be enough support in the Republican Party for a Cheney presidential nomination while Trump is the de facto leader. She's received endorsements for her reelection in Wyoming from a slew of prominent Republicans, including Romney, former President George W. Bush, and former House Speaker Paul Ryan. But Trump's hold on the party looms large.

"How big is her support within the Republican Party? One, I don't think we can say right now, it's just too early in terms of 2024," Gunner Ramer, political director of the anti-Trump group Republican Accountability Project, told Insider. "But it is a great thing to have at least one Republican that's a national figure willing to put the Constitution and the truth ahead of one figure in a political party who is Donald Trump."

Cheney could also potentially follow in her father's footsteps and become the running mate to a future presidential nominee – one that's obviously not Trump. Or, playing up her national security background, she could seek a powerful Cabinet position under a future GOP administration.

"If Cheney is unseated and has no longer a seat in Congress, my sense is she'll land. She'll be OK," Susan Stubson, a Cheney supporter and precinct committeewoman for the Natrona County GOP, told Insider. "Secretary of Defense makes a ton of sense to me, secretary of state, all of those positions."

Whatever job Cheney finds herself in, even if it's still as Wyoming's sole representative, she will remain a vocal Trump critic. In recent months, she's been beating her anti-Trump drum in interviews and speeches. The January 6 committee, laying out its case against Trump, has more public hearings set for this fall.

"I intend to continue to be very involved and engaged — again no matter what happens — in these issues that are so fundamental to, I believe, the survival of our republic," Cheney told CNN in an interview aired last week.

Stubson, a self-described "Big Tent" Republican, told Insider that while she's worried Cheney may lose on Tuesday, she believes it's "so important" to keep her voice in the public dialogue.

"I really am excited and hopeful by her trajectory. I hope her star continues to rise on the national level," Stubson said. "It's clear to me that Cheney's message and the case that she's making for democracy is resonating."

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