A new poll leaked to a conservative media outlet shows Rep. Liz Cheney leading former Congresswoman Cynthia Lummis by more than 20 points in a hypothetical head-to-head primary matchup for outgoing Sen. Mike Enzi’s seat, though neither woman has declared their intentions for 2020.
According to a report describing the poll — leaked to Breitbart News early this week — Cheney leads Lummis 56 percent to 34 percent among likely voters in Wyoming. However, among definite voters, Cheney leads just 31 percent to 19 percent — a 12-point difference.
The survey polled 502 likely GOP primary voters in Wyoming and has a margin of error of 4.5 percent, Breitbart reported.
The poll was conducted by the respected marketing and political polling firm, the Tarrance Group. The firm counts both Gov. Mark Gordon and Wyoming Sen. John Barrasso as clients. However, the two politicians’ usual pollster with the firm, Dave Sackett, did not conduct the poll.
Cheney has no prior history with the firm, according to an analysis of several years of campaign finance disclosures, often relying on firms like the Idaho-based GS Strategy Group and a carousel of high-end consulting firms. Cheney’s campaign did not commission the firm to conduct the poll, a spokeswoman for Cheney’s campaign told the Star-Tribune.
The Tarrance Group did not reply to a request for comment from the Star-Tribune seeking verification of the numbers reported by Breitbart.
Since Enzi announced this spring he plans to retire after more than two decades in the Senate, speculation has continued to mount over whether Cheney or Lummis would mount bids for his seat.
However, whispers the two could be pitted against one another have increased among political circles in Washington. In a column for Bloomberg News last week, longtime political columnist Eli Lake referenced an internal Republican poll conducted by a group of Republican activists and donors in the state, finding Cheney to have a 69 percent approval rating among likely Republican voters and an 84 percent approval rating among Trump voters — likely the same poll referenced by Breitbart, said University of Wyoming political science professor Jim King.
Though the numbers in the poll could not be verified, the numbers indicated in the report appeared to be of quality, Wyoming Survey & Analysis Center senior research scientist Brian Harnisch told the Star-Tribune.
“With an official release, we would be able to see a lot more about the methodology,” he said. “That being said, at face value, it appears credible with references to total sample size and margin of error. According to FiveThirtyEight’s pollster ratings, the Tarrance Group is rated generally well with a ‘B’ rating, utilizing live callers with cellphones in the sample, which is very important. We do not know if those traits apply to this poll, but it is encouraging that their other polls appear legitimate.”
However, Harnisch noted several areas to be wary of, including what the poll defined as “likely GOP primary voters” as well as who funded this study and what motive those people had for leaking the poll.
No surprises here
The results of the poll are not surprising, King wrote in an email to the Star-Tribune. Cheney is in the headlines regularly, while Lummis — out of the spotlight for several years following her retirement in 2016 — has attracted little attention beyond the most acute followers of Wyoming politics.
“If Lummis was still in office and a regular presence in the state, she would poll ahead of potential challengers in a similar way,” King wrote.
However, the assumption a Senate race would be “Cheney’s to lose” — as Lake suggested in his column — seems more representative of a Washington insider’s view of Wyoming politics than the present reality on the ground, King wrote.
“The Bloomberg op-ed ... assumed no Republican with statewide name recognition would enter the race,” he said.
“I’ve no doubt that Cheney would prevail if the other contenders for the Republican nomination have no statewide name recognition (as she did in the 2016 primary) and that the Republican nominee (whoever that is) will win the general election,” he added. “But a contested primary with other well-known Republicans presents a different dynamic.”
There is already high potential that could be the case. Lummis has already filed as a Senate candidate with the Federal Elections Commission and, though she has not declared, those close to her have said the former congresswoman is seriously considering a run. GOP megadonor Foster Friess, who ran for the Republican nomination for governor last year, has also expressed interest.
At the same time, former White House aide Bob Grady — a state and national political insider — announced he was exploring a run for either seat last week, further complicating the picture.