Liz Cheney’s announcement that she will run for U.S. Senate in Wyoming sparked something of a firestorm among Republicans. A number of GOPers in and out of the state see Cheney’s challenge of incumbent Sen. Mike Enzi as an unnecessary civil war.
“I think that Liz, she’s terrific and I think she has a future that is very, very bright,” said the junior Wyoming Sen. John Barrasso on msnbc’s The Daily Rundown Wednesday. “I just think this is the wrong race at the wrong time.”
“I don’t think she’s going about it the right way,” said Wyoming Rep. Cynthia Lummis Tuesday night. “In the instance where you have the three-term sitting U.S. senator who has done nothing to merit a primary challenge and you challenge that person without the courtesy of calling them just before you make the announcement, it’s just not the best way to start a campaign.”
One local paper wasn’t much kinder. “Hey, Liz Cheney: If you want to run for U.S. Senate, try it from Virginia or some other state,” the Gillette News Record wrote in a Sunday editorial. “We already have a U.S. senator—one who has spent his life in Wyoming, one who took on the unenviable job of leading Gillette through the boom in the ’70s and ’80s.”
Cheney announced her candidacy Tuesday with a web ad. In the nearly six-minute video, she notes that her family came to Wyoming in 1852 “in search of religious freedom.” Despite these very old roots, Cheney hasn’t lived in Wyoming since she was a young girl, when her family moved to Washington D.C. For the majority of her life she’s lived in Virginia, moving back to The Cowboy State only last year–opening her to charges of carpetbagging.
“When I heard Liz Cheney was running for Senate, I wondered if she was running in her home state of Virginia,” said Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul.
“My sense is, as far the carpetbagger charge, is it’s from people who don’t want to talk about substance, don’t want to talk about the issues,” Cheney told the AP.
Cheney announced Tuesday, but her intentions were hinted at last week by Enzi himself. The well-liked Wyoming incumbent–a frequent (and presumably now a former) fly fishing partner of vice president Dick Cheney–said his prospective challenger called him to say she was looking at a run. He added that Cheney never asked him whether he was planning on retiring.
Prominent Wyoming Republican Alan Simpson hit the alarm button on Cheney last week. “It’s a disaster,” Bowles told The New York Times, “a divisive, ugly situation—and all it does is open the door for the Democrats for 20 years.”
Others Republicans aren’t so pessimistic, and a number of conservatives appear vitalized by the prospect of Cheney in office. “It’s not about Mike Enzi or any other Republican politician,” writes Town Hall’s Kurt Schlichter. “It’s about winning this war against progressivism, and if you aren’t leading the fight then bow out and make room for someone who will.”
Enzi announced his own campaign for re-election on Tuesday, and the National Republican Senatorial Committee has his back. “The NRSC’s main responsibility is to ensure the reelection of Republican senators on the way to the majority,” NRSC spokesman Brad Dayspring said last Tuesday. ”We would obviously support Sen. Enzi if a challenge arises.”
Enzi still seems a bit shocked by the situation. “I thought we were friends,” he told The Washington Post.
“If she wins, which she well may, her victory may prove to be another dose of self-administered poison for Republicans,” writes Bloomberg View’s Francis Wilkinson, citing the GOP’s well-documented issues with the more extreme elements of their party. “One lesson will be clear: no one is conservative enough to be safe from internal attack.”
The state party released a statement:
The Wyoming Republican Party thanks Senator Enzi for his years of service in the U.S. Senate on behalf of the people of Wyoming.
The Wyoming Republican Party also recognizes the work of Liz Cheney as a Deputy Assistant Secretary of State during the George W. Bush Administration. As state statute dictates, the Wyoming Republican Party will remain neutral during all contested primaries.
We look forward to a spirited primary that is focused on issues and a vision for our nation and free from negative campaigning or personal attacks. While the field is not yet set for the 2014 U.S. Senate primary, whoever emerges will have the full support of the party and serve Wyoming with honor. This Senate seat does not belong to any one individual; it is the people of Wyoming’s.