Rep. Liz Cheney has become the No. 1 enemy of former President Donald Trump, and now the candidate who is shaping up to possibly be her biggest competitor, Harriet Hageman, has his endorsement.
Next year’s House contest will be a midterm election, meaning that it falls at the midpoint of the sitting president’s term. That fact has the potential to affect the outcome.
“These midterms are normally a referendum on the incumbent president,” said Jim King, a professor of political science at the University of Wyoming, adding this time might be different. “The people of Wyoming are trying to make it a referendum on an ex-president.”
King could turn out to be right, but there are even more factors that could affect who wins.
Cheney, who first won her seat in 2016, has a long legislative record in Wyoming, whereas Hageman does not have one at all. (Hageman is a lawyer, and ran unsuccessfully for governor in 2018.) On paper, this should work to Cheney’s advantage, as it often does for incumbents. But Cheney is a different type of incumbent — she has become more known lately for her repeated breaks from her party than she is for her legislative history.
Hageman is taking advantage of that reality. For one, Hageman has already sought to paint Cheney as cozy with Speaker Nancy Pelosi multiple times, despite Hageman only joining the race a couple days ago.
King took issue with the line of reasoning that Trump loyalists and Hageman are pushing.
“Are we going to choose a representative based on her agreement or disagreement with someone who’s no longer in office? Or are we going to judge her on how she’s challenged the policies of the current administration,” he questioned.
There’s also the question of how many candidates remain in the race. Trump himself has pushed for only one challenger to go up against Cheney so as not to split the vote. So far, two have dropped out, but several more are still in for now.
In the meantime, it seems like the Cheney camp is trying to bring the midterm back to a referendum on Biden as opposed to Trump. She and her office frequently put out statements, social media posts and give interviews about her opposition to Biden’s policies. On Friday, her office sent out an email that listed over 50 examples of “Cheney’s opposition to President Biden’s policies.”
It’s too soon to tell whether the election will hinge on the past or the present. As we have learned this week, a lot can happen in politics in a couple days, let alone 11 months.
Follow state politics reporter Victoria Eavis on Twitter @Victoria_Eavis