Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney, who since the insurrection at the Capitol has become the Republican Party’s most forceful critic of former President Donald Trump, was ousted from her House seat by Trump-backed Harriet Hageman, CNN projected Tuesday.
In Alaska, voters were casting ballots in another race the former President is focused on, with Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski squaring off in the first of what’s likely to be two rounds against the Trump-endorsed Kelly Tshibaka.
Former Gov. Sarah Palin, meanwhile, is attempting a political comeback in a special election for the state’s lone House seat.
Here are some top takeaways from Tuesday’s contests in Wyoming and Alaska:
Trump’s intra-party rivals: Trump and his allies have spent the spring and summer turning Republican primaries across the political map into bitter fights in which loyalty to the former President was the central factor.
He lost some high-profile battles, including in Georgia, where Gov. Brian Kemp and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger held off Trump-back challengers.
But in most open-seat races, Trump’s candidates triumphed. And on Tuesday in Wyoming, Trump, who had endorsed Hageman on the day she entered the race against Cheney, claimed his biggest victory yet.
Cheney chose to go down fighting: In the lead-up to Tuesday’s primary, Cheney insisted she was trying to win.
But her strategy — attempting to convince the Republican electorate in a state the former President won by a margin of 43 percentage points in 2020 to turn on him — suggests she’d made a different choice: to go down swinging.
Her election night event, on a ranch in Jackson Hole with the sun setting over the Grand Tetons in the background, didn’t feature any television screens for supporters to watch results tabulated in a race Cheney was all but certain to lose.
She told supporters that she could have cozied up to Trump to do what she’d done in the primary two years earlier: win with 73% of the vote. “That was a path I could not and would not take,” Cheney said. “No House seat, no office in this land, is more important than the principles that we are all sworn to protect. And I well understood the potential political consequences of abiding by my duty.”
Cheney’s decision to use the spotlight of her high-profile House primary to tee off on Trump was never a winning one in Wyoming. But it did endear her to a segment of anti-Trump donors and position her as the GOP’s most strident critic of Trump.
What’s next for Cheney? The morning after her defeat in the Wyoming GOP House primary, the three-term congresswoman told the “Today” show that she is “thinking about” running for president and will make a decision in “the coming months.”
“I’m not going to make any announcements here this morning,” she told NBC’s Savannah Guthrie.
Cheney used her concession speech to preview a continued fight against Trump, without laying out exactly what that means.
“I have said since January 6 that I will do whatever it takes to ensure that Donald Trump is never again near the Oval Office, and I mean it. This is a fight for all of us, together,” she said. “I’m a conservative Republican. … But I love my country more. So I ask you tonight to join me: As we leave here, let us resolve that we will stand together, Republicans, Democrats and independents, against those who would destroy our republic.”
As she left the stage, Tom Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down” blared over the event’s speakers.
Overnight, the Cheney campaign filed paperwork with the Federal Election Committee creating a leadership PAC to be called “The Great Task.”
This is the first of several next steps from Cheney, an adviser tells CNN, as she starts to put her election night speech from Wyoming into action and opens a new chapter in the wake of her defeat in her congressional seat.
Waiting on Alaska results — but how long? Palin, the 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee who has not run for office since then, is attempting a political comeback in the special election to fill the remaining months of the late Rep. Don Young’s House term.
But it will take weeks to sort out whether she wins the runoff election against fellow Republican businessman Nick Begich III, Democratic former state lawmaker Mary Peltola and Republican Tara Sweeney, who previously served as assistant secretary for Indian Affairs at the US Department of the Interior.
The special election is Alaska’s first using the state’s new ranked choice voting system. CNN projected that none of the three candidates will receive more than 50% of the vote in the first round, meaning that the state will tabulate second-choice votes on Aug. 31.
Read more takeaways here.