Wyoming Republicans underwhelmed by Liz Cheney’s primary

Liz Cheney

There a quite a primary fight brewing in Wyoming that highlight the divisions in the Republican Party. Liz Cheney, the daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, announced last week that she is going to challenge Sen. Mike Enzi in the Republican primary for U.S. Senate in Wyoming.

This isn’t an ordinary primary challenge. Though an incumbent, Enzi has a fairly conservative record. His has a lifetime score of 82% from FreedomWorks and 71% from the Club for Growth. Enzi’s biggest stumble recently was his legislative push for the online sales tax, which was opposed by Tea Party and grassroots organizations.

While Enzi’s voting record isn’t as good as it could be, Cheney isn’t like the primary challengers we’ve seen over the last couple of cycles. Tea Party primary challengers threatened Old Guard Republicans, calling into question big spending and the misguided foreign policy that was so prevalent during George W. Bush’s presidency.

Cheney’s argument for running against Enzi are sort of peculiar. She doesn’t question his credentials or even his record. There are no fundamental differences of which to speak between the two. Her argument for his run is, essentially, that Enzi is too old.

During a recent interview with Rush Limbaugh, Cheney said that it’s time for a new generation of Republicans to take control.

“I have a lot of respect for Mike,” Cheney told Limbaugh. “I think that, you know, I can tell you that I respect his 18 years of service to the state. And it’s not personal, you know, this is very much about policy and substance in the future.”

“I believe it’s time for a new generation. It’s time for somebody who will be a strong voice in Washington for Wyoming,” she added. “So it’s certainly not personal.  It’s about the future and about, you know, not having the luxury to sit by and wait.”

Cheney does have the fortune of gaining support from talk radio. Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Mark Levin, and Erick Erickson have already lined up behind her, comparing to Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX). But Enzi is getting help from the Koch brothers and Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), who has made a name for himself by bucking the Republican establishment.

But the support for Cheney from the Old Guard GOP isn’t resonating in Wyoming. Last week, Conservative Intel showed that Cheney trails Enzi by 34 points. Just yesterday, Public Policy Polling released a survey showing her down by 28 points. What’s worse is that Cheney trails one of the prospective Democratic challengers, meaning her candidacy could put the seat in play. Given that the GOP has decent prospects of winning the seat next year, the last thing they need to do is waste resources in a traditionally red state.

If you’re going to run for office, you have to offer some sort of fundamental change or note the differences between you and your opponent. Cheney’s argument falls flat and is, frankly, insulting to many voters. Moreover, she marks a return to the past of the Republican Party, when they spent too much, trampled over civil liberties, and got the United States involved in misguided military engagements. The Republican Party has changed significantly since then, though there is still much to be done.

When it all comes down to it, Enzi remains relatively popular in Wyoming. His record may not be perfect, but he’s generally conservative. What Cheney’s run is really about is Old Guard, Bush-era Republicans see their power drifting away and they are trying to reassert themselves. For now, at least, voters aren’t buying what Cheney is selling.

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