The Cheneys may be coming back. Eldest daughter of the former vice president, Liz Cheney seems poised to make a run for U.S. Senate in Wyoming, The New York Times reported Sunday. Cheney has not yet announced her candidacy; prospective primary opponent and current Wyoming senator Mike Enzi already did that for her.
“She called me and said that she’s looking at it,” Enzi told the Times, adding that Cheney did not ask whether he was planning to retire.
The Times article suggests that Wyoming Republicans are hesitant about a Cheney run, not least because Enzi is a well-liked and reliable legislator. Alan Simpson (of Bowles-Simpson fame) is somewhat more apocalyptic in his appraisal of a Cheney/Enzi standoff. The primary challenge, he said, would bring about the "destruction of the Republican Party of Wyoming."
“It’s a disaster," Bowles said, "a divisive, ugly situation—and all it does is open the door for the Democrats for 20 years.”
Not everyone is so gloomy. "I don’t see how the Democrats would benefit from this," writes Daniel Larison of The American Conservative. "Democrats haven’t won a Senate race in Wyoming in over fifty years, and Enzi won re-election by fifty points in 2008. Even if a primary fight left Enzi bruised, there is no real danger that he would lose to Cheney, and even less of a chance that a Democrat would defeat him in the general election."
Rumors of Cheney's candidacy seem to be reinforced by several appearance across the state in recent months, sometimes together with her father. Cheney has also taken to Twitter and Facebook to show her love for the Cowboy State or, as she called it, "God's country."
Cheney, a Fox News contributor, is decidedly more partisan than her would-be opponent, holding a special ire for President Obama, whom she once called "the most radical man ever to occupy the Oval Office.” In a recent Wall Street Journal op-ed, Cheney accused Obama of launching three wars:
"The president has launched a war on Americans' Second Amendment rights. He has launched a war on religious freedom. He has launched a war on fossil fuels," she wrote, going on to criticize the president in every other political arena as well, including and especially foreign policy.
"To have Liz Cheney in the Senate, in other words, would be like having Dick Cheney back in the spotlight," writes Jacob Heilbrunn at The National Interest, citing the similarities between Liz Cheney's neocon credentials--she was the principal deputy assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs in the Bush administration--and her father's neocon policies.
Enzi, on the other hand, is an understated lawmaker who served on the (failed) bipartisan Gang of Six in 2009 to find a compromise on health care reform. The Huffington Post's Jason Linkins says that Enzi was even a "believed-to-be-gettable GOP vote" for Obamacare. Still, Enzi has a solid conservative voting record over his three terms in the Senate, including on his vote against the Affordable Care Act.
All this adds up to a senator who was well-liked enough to win his last election with 75% of the vote. And yet, as Enzi himself noted, "There’s at least one person out there who wants me to retire.”