In recent years, as Republican politics has shifted to the far right, we’ve seen plenty of primary challenges to sitting GOP officials. In every instance, they follow a fairly predictable pattern: the party base deems a lawmaker to be insufficiently conservative, they’re challenged from the right, and more often than not (Lugar, Bennett, Inglis, et al), they lose.
However, there are no recent examples of a Republican eyeing a sitting GOP official and effectively arguing, “I have a famous last name and I want your seat, so get out of my way.”
And yet, there’s Liz Cheney.
Following up on Rachel’s segment from last night’s show, the far-right Fox News personality confirmed late yesterday that she will, in fact, launch a campaign against Sen. Mike Enzi (R) in Wyoming, a state Cheney moved to just last year. There’s nothing especially wrong with Enzi by Republican standards – he’s a popular incumbent and one of the Senate’s most conservative members – and yesterday, the senator sounded a disappointed note with a phrase that’s become an instant classic.
Talking to reporters in the Capitol after the video went public, Mr. Enzi said he was not notified by either Ms. Cheney or her father – whom he has known for over 30 years – about Ms. Cheney’s intentions.
“I thought we were friends,” he added.
Interestingly enough, Enzi’s actual friends have wasted no time rallying to his defense. In fact, it’s been interesting to watch just how quickly the party has rushed to dismiss Liz Cheney’s candidacy.
Enzi’s in-state colleague, Sen. John Barrasso (R), for example, quickly issued a statement saying, “Mike Enzi is a friend, a mentor and a tremendous U.S. senator for Wyoming. I support his re-election.” Rep. Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.), who is rumored to have been interested in Enzi’s seat if he retired, quickly noted that Cheney has never earned a paycheck in Wyoming, and has lived her whole life in D.C.’s Virginia suburbs.
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) sounded a similar note: “When I heard Liz Cheney was running for Senate I wondered if she was running in her home state of Virginia.”
As is the case with all incumbents, the National Republican Senatorial Committee announced its support for Enzi last week, long before Cheney stated her intentions.
But I imagine Cheney will try to use all of this to her advantage, positioning Enzi as the “establishment” candidate, despite the fact that she’s spent her life in the Beltway and benefited professionally from her famous family name.
Regardless, the stage is set for one of the cycle’s most interesting political dramas. Cheney will officially launch her candidacy in Casper at 10 a.m. local time.