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 slipping.
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 other state.
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… (Read more)