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Why the GOP will miss Liz Cheney if the House flips in November

Op/Ed: If Trump-backed candidates like Harriet Hageman and Sarah Palin win in the midterms, Republicans will long for the days when principled conservatives like Liz Cheney upheld the rule of law.
Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., speaks on Aug. 16, 2022, at a primary election day gathering at Mead Ranch in Jackson, Wyo.
Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., speaks on Aug. 16, 2022, at a primary election day gathering at Mead Ranch in Jackson, Wyo.Jae C. Hong / AP

Now that the August 16th primaries are in the rearview mirror, if Republicans flip the House of Representatives this November, it should be called, “The House That Trump Built.”

This is not a strong house built on a solid foundation, more like a flop house built on a swamp. And its caretaker, likely to be current House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., is going to have his hands full with two likely Trump-backed newcomers, Wyoming’s Harriet Hageman and former Alaska governor, Sarah Palin.

Harriet Hageman – a Trump-endorsed lawyer – and Sarah Palin are only loyal to the former president, and in Palin’s case, addicted to seeing her name in the headlines. They will not work within the Republican conference, rather they are likely to compete with the likes of Congresswomen Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., or Lauren Boebert, R-Colo., to come up with the wackiest conspiracy theory or hateful trope.

In a scenario where Republicans control the House, it will be these Trump-backed candidates who will cause the most agita in the party. While political fortunes can be won and lost over 32 times in the next 80 or so days, it looks like there will not be a big red wave here, but rather a red ripple, which will leave Rep. McCarthy with a much slimmer majority – one where every vote matters.

All of this may be enough for Rep. McCarthy to long for the days when he worked with principled conservatives like outgoing Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo.

This all started on January 20, 2021, when Donald Trump left the White House with his tail between his legs, boxes of classified documents and a “revenge list.” At the top of the list were those who voted to impeach him for “incitement of insurrection” in the January 6th attack on the U.S. Capitol.

Rep. Cheney, the third-ranking House GOP leader at the time, represented the crown jewel on the list, with moderate Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, coming in for a close second. At a campaign rally in July, Trump attacked Sen. Murkowski, calling her “a lousy senator” and “worse than a Democrat.”

But this week Trump went 50-50 in Alaska and Wyoming. As expected, Hageman defeated Rep. Cheney, while Sen. Murkowski maintains a lead over Trump-backed candidate, Kelly Tshibaka, in the state’s ranked-choice primary.

For Palin — a Trump-endorsed anti-establishment Republican — she is currently vying to fill a vacant at-large congressional seat in her state and will continue to the general election for a chance to serve a full term.

Mostly due to the horrific Trump-supported candidates running for Senate seats in Pennsylvania, Georgia and Ohio, the Democrats are in a position to hold – or even increase – their majority in that chamber. While this will probably leave Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., a bit apoplectic, if Sen. Murkowski wins she will continue to work across the aisle and deliver for her constituents.

But if one thing is certain, it’s that the primary results will not have Rep. Cheney looking backwards. She is clearly committed to her ongoing work as vice chair of the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack, and will continue to call out those responsible for the riots.

Rep. Cheney has also made it her top priority to prevent Donald Trump from ever holding the nation’s highest office again. In an exclusive interview on "TODAY" Cheney said, "I believe that Donald Trump continues to pose a very grave threat and risk to our Republic. And I think that defeating him is going to require a broad and united front of Republicans, Democrats and independents, and that’s what I intend to be a part of."

While many are discussing the possibility of Rep. Cheney running for president in 2024 – a prospect she says she’s considering – the Wyoming congresswoman has reportedly already set up a leadership PAC, funded by a transfer of the remaining campaign money she had left after the primary.

Rep. Cheney is positioned to be a tremendous influencer on the national stage. As part of a Republican dynasty, she’s got the name recognition and considerable respect across the political spectrum for her decision to put country over party. She’s poised to build a unique coalition.

“She seems almost to be priming herself to have influence with other women voters in upcoming campaigns,” wrote BBC special correspondent Katty Kay. She highlights the way Rep. Cheney spoke of the bravery of women during the Jan. 6 hearings, as well as how she was making a direct appeal to women on the campaign trail.

Rep. Cheney’s future and legacy are still being written, potentially with her greatest act yet to come.