Liz Cheney’s sudden decision to end her Senate bid in Wyoming may wind up being the high point of campaign in which the daughter of the former Vice President sacrificed just about everything and won nothing.
In her relentless and fruitless pursuit of a Senate seat, Cheney uprooted her family from Virginia, deeply damaged Republican Party unity in her father’s home state, harmed decades-old family friendships and is no longer on speaking terms with her only sibling.
By the time she issued a statement early Monday citing “serious health issues” in her family as the reason for calling it quits, she was nearly 40 points behind Sen. Mike Enzi, whom she had hoped to unseat in a contentious primary. Sources told NBC News that the concerns have to do with her children and not former Vice President Dick Cheney, who underwent a heart transplant in March 2012.
Even before the change in Cheney’s family circumstances, she was trailing or being outright crushed by Enzi. In some ways, her bid seemed doomed from the start. When she announced her candidacy six months ago, Cheney shocked the GOP establishment, both in D.C. and the deep-red state she was running in, for her decision to take on the well-liked, three-term, staunchly conservative Enzi.
At the time, Enzi had this to say of Cheney: “I thought we were friends.” Ari Fleischer, the former White House Press Secretary for President George W. Bush, said that while he was an overall fan of Cheney’s, “Not in this race…Divisive, internal GOP fights aren’t helpful. No need to create this one.” The National Republican Senatorial Committee decided to back Enzi, as did prominent Wyoming lawmakers like Sen. John Barrasso of and former Sen. Al Simpson.
Still, the mother of five settled in Wyoming. Running on her family name and her parents’ ties to Wyoming did nothing to shake accusations of carpet-bagging. Cheney attempted to battle the image with ads, including one featuring her three daughters, but charges that she was opportunistic outsider only increased.
Then everything worsened. A nasty, public feud broke out between Cheney and her sister Mary over the rights of gays and lesbians to marry. Mary, who is openly gay and married with two children, took to Facebook to skewer her sibling for speaking out against same-sex marriage. Mary Cheney went further, suggesting her sister’s public stance in the conservative state didn’t jive with what she privately said in the past. The sibling drama drew in their parents, who issued a painful public statement that essentially sided with Liz Cheney.
For Cheney, who helped her father write his memoirs and served in the Bush administration, the decision to pull out of the Senatae race may have been a tough one since it came at such a cost. But Cheney is ambitious, ideological and a proven risk-taker with a desire to carry on the Cheney torch on the national stage. That was certainly evident in her video announcing her initial intentions to run. Though she was challenging a member of her own party, her six-minute clip made clear that Cheney’s real opponent was President Obama.
She claimed that Obama had “launched a war on our Second Amendment rights, he’s launched a war on our religious freedom, he’s used the IRS to launch a war on our freedom of speech, and he’s used the EPA to launch a war on Wyoming’s ranchers, our farmers and our energy industry.” She also said Obama had diminished the country’s strength abroad, has held no one accountable for the consulate attack in Benghazi, and was dishonest to the American people.
The Wyoming Republican Party certainly left the door open for her return. “Liz is a rising star in Wyoming and national politics and we look forward to her return when the time is right for her and her family,” the party said in a statement.