Liz Cheney, a leader in the Republican resistance to former president Donald Trump, was fighting to save her seat in the US House yesterday as voters weighed in on the direction of the GOP in two deep-red states.
Ms Cheney’s team was bracing for a loss against a Trump-backed challenger in the state in which he won by the largest of margins during the 2020 campaign.
Win or lose, the 56-year-old daughter of a vice president is vowing to remain in national politics as she contemplates a 2024 presidential bid.
But in the short term, Ms Cheney was facing a dire threat from Republican opponent Harriet Hageman, a Cheyenne ranching industry attorney who has harnessed the full fury of the Trump movement in her bid to expel Ms Cheney from the House.
Yesterday’s contests in Wyoming and Alaska offered one of the final tests for Mr Trump and his brand of hard-line politics ahead of the November general election. So far, the former president has largely dominated the fight to shape the GOP in his image, having helped install loyalists in key general election match-ups from Arizona to Georgia to Pennsylvania.
This week’s contests came just eight days after the FBI executed a search warrant at Mr Trump’s Florida estate, recovering 11 sets of classified records. Some were marked “sensitive compartmented information”, a special category meant to protect the nation’s most important secrets. The Republican Party initially rallied behind the former president, although the reaction turned somewhat mixed as more details emerged.
In all, seven Republican senators and 10 Republican House members joined every Democrat in supporting Mr Trump’s impeachment in the days after his supporters stormed the US Capitol as Congress tried to certify President Joe Biden’s victory. Just two of those 10 House members have won their GOP primaries this year. The rest have lost or declined to seek re-election.
Ms Cheney would be just the third to return to Congress if she defies expectations.
On the other side of the GOP’s tent, Sarah Palin, the former Alaska governor and vice-presidential nominee, hoped to spark a political comeback yesterday.
Endorsed by Mr Trump, she finished first among 48 candidates to qualify for a special election seeking to replace Congressman Don Young, who died in March at age 88, after 49 years as Alaska’s lone House member.
Ms Palin was actually on yesterday’s ballot twice: once in a special election to complete Mr Young’s term and another for a full two-year House term starting in January.
She was running against Republican Nick Begich and Democrat Mary Peltola in the special election and a larger field in the primary.
Back in Wyoming, Ms Cheney’s political survival looked like depending upon whether she was able to persuade enough Democrats to cast ballots in her Republican primary election. While some Democrats have rallied behind her, it’s unclear whether there were enough in the state to make a difference. Mr Biden earned just 26pc of Wyoming’s vote in 2020.
Many Republicans have essentially excommunicated Ms Cheney because of her outspoken criticism of Trump. The House GOP ousted her as the No. 3 House leader last year. And more recently, the Wyoming GOP and Republican National Committee censured her.
Anti-Trump groups such as Congressman Adam Kinzinger’s Country First PAC and the Republican Accountability Project have worked to encourage independents and Democrats to support Ms Cheney in recent weeks. They were clearly disappointed by the expected outcome of yesterday’s vote, but some are hopeful about her political future.
Ms Cheney has seemingly welcomed defeat by devoting almost every resource at her disposal to ending Mr Trump’s political career since the insurrection.