Liz Cheney didn’t come right out and say she expects to lose her primary next month. But in an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper on “State of the Union” on Sunday, it was pretty easy to read between the lines of the Wyoming Republican’s answers.
“I am working hard here in Wyoming to earn every vote,” Cheney said at one point. “But I will also say this. I’m not going to lie. I’m not going to say things that aren’t true about the election. My opponents are doing that, certainly simply for the purpose of getting elected.
“If I have to choose between maintaining a seat in the House of Representatives or protecting the constitutional republic and ensuring the American people know the truth about Donald Trump, I’m going to choose the Constitution and the truth every single day,” she said at another.
Asked by Tapper whether her service as vice chair of the House select committee investigating January 6 will have been worth it even if she loses next month, Cheney responded that it was “the single most important thing I have ever done professionally.”
If it sounds to you like Cheney is framing her August 16 primary for Wyoming’s at-large House seat as a sort of fait accompli, and as not the end of the story but as a part of a broader narrative, well, then, you are right.
The simple fact is that Cheney is very unlikely to beat Harriet Hageman in next month’s primary. Hageman has the support of former President Donald Trump, as well as a number of top Republicans including, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy.
While Cheney has tried to recruit Democrats to cross party lines and support her – and some undoubtedly will – it’s hard to see that making a real difference in the outcome of the race in such an overwhelmingly Republican state.
Simply put: Cheney looks likely to lose – and she knows it.
What she also knows is that, at least in her mind, this isn’t the end of her political career.
Here’s how Cheney answered a question from Tapper on whether she is interested in running for president in 2024:
“I haven’t really – at this point, I have not made a decision about 2024. …
“… But I do think, as we look towards the next presidential election, as I said, I believe that our nation stands on the edge of an abyss. And I do believe that we all have to really think very seriously about the dangers we face and the threats we face. And we have to elect serious candidates.”
Which tells you everything you need to know about Cheney and 2024. She isn’t an announced candidate. But when you hear a politician talking about the country “standing on the edge of an abyss” and the need to elect “serious candidates,” well, it doesn’t take an astrophysicist to figure out what’s going on there.
The real question seems to be then not whether Cheney runs – she sounded to all the world like that decision is mostly made – but rather whether she would have any sort of impact on the 2024 race.
If Cheney runs as a Republican, it will, undoubtedly, be a very tough road for her.
Trump is the clear frontrunner in all polling conducted on the Republican presidential primary and seems very likely to run. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is widely seen as the only serious alternative to Trump at the moment – and he has positioned himself as a representative of Trumpism without Trump.
There is no potential candidate garnering any serious support in hypothetical 2024 primary polls who is running expressly against Trump and his four years in office. The Republicans, aside from Cheney, who are signaling an interest in running that sort of campaign – Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan being perhaps the most prominent – barely register in polls.
Could Cheney somehow coalesce the anti-Trump vote within the Republican Party? Sure. But even if she was to do so, there’s scant evidence that bloc of voters comprise anything close to a majority of likely Republican primary voters.
The other – and perhaps more plausible – path for Cheney is to run as an independent in 2024. Assuming Trump is the Republican nominee, such a candidacy could skim off enough votes to potentially hamstring the former President’s chances of winning. (Presumably Cheney, who is conservative on most issues, would appeal more to Republicans than Democrats.)
Even under that scenario, however, Cheney would function as a spoiler – trying to keep Trump from the White House – rather than as a viable candidate to be president. Which, given what she told Tapper Sunday, might be enough for her.
“I’m fighting hard, no matter what happens on August 16, I’m going to wake up on August 17 and continue to fight hard to ensure Donald Trump is never anywhere close to the Oval Office ever again,” said Cheney.