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The poll results are in: Hageman holds commanding lead over Cheney
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The poll results are in: Hageman holds commanding lead over Cheney

From the Election 2022: Complete coverage series
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Former President Donald Trump’s pick to unseat Rep. Liz Cheney in the race for Wyoming’s lone House seat holds a commanding 22-point lead with a month until the primary, a new Casper Star-Tribune poll shows.

Natural resources attorney Harriet Hageman leads Cheney 52% to 30%, the poll shows. No other challenger received more than 5% support. Only 11% of voters were undecided.

The poll, conducted for the Star-Tribune by Mason-Dixon Polling & Strategy, surveyed 1,100 registered Wyoming voters likely to participate in the primary, resulting in a margin of error of plus or minus 3%, according to Brad Coker, Mason-Dixon managing director.

While the Cheney-Hageman race is one of the nation’s most closely watched, this is the first independent, public, in-state poll to be conducted. It was performed from July 7 to July 11 — shortly after early voting began here.

“The big story is Liz Cheney is going to get beat,” said Coker. “That’s a foregone conclusion.”

Cheney’s vote to impeach the former president after the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol and her relentless criticism of Trump as a threat to democracy and the rule of law have spurred the toughest reelection fight of her career. In September, Trump selected Hageman from several challengers as his pick to take on Cheney, one of his biggest political enemies.

In past elections, Cheney has handily beat her primary opponent. And given that Wyoming is one of the nation’s most conservative states, the Republican House nominee often coasts to victory in the general election. But the Wyoming Republican Party has turned on Cheney, censuring her soon after Trump’s impeachment and voting last fall to no longer recognize her as a member of the GOP.

Wyoming US House Congressional Debate

Rep. Liz Cheney speaks during a GOP House debate on June 30 at Sheridan College. Cheney is facing a tough reelection fight.

Among those polled, only 27% approved of Cheney’s job performance. Two-thirds disapproved, with 7% saying they were not sure. Men were especially critical of Cheney’s performance: Only one in five approved of the job she’s doing.

Those results track with interviews conducted by the Star-Tribune this summer. The congresswoman’s critics say she’s too distracted by her service on the House Jan. 6 committee and her battles with Trump to properly serve the state, and the poll found 54% of voters were less likely to support her because she’s part of the panel investigating the attack on the Capitol.

Cheney critics complain that she rarely visits, with many of them calling her a “RINO” (Republican in name only) as they air their grievances. Voters also called her a “carpetbagger,” an insult she’s been hit with since she moved to the state in 2012, a year before her unsuccessful bid for U.S. Senate.

“Liz Cheney betrayed President Trump,” said Mark Hladik, who’s lived in Wyoming for 42 years. “Ninety-nine point nine percent pure RINO.”

Hladik is a Trump backer, but said the former president’s endorsement of Hageman didn’t influence his choice.

Travis Van Hecke, a Casper City Council candidate, thinks “it’s time for someone different,” adding that he would’ve voted for almost anyone who ran against Cheney.

“This race is more about Liz Cheney than it is about Donald Trump,” Coker said. “Anybody who’s credible, who ran to the right of Liz Cheney would probably win this race — with or without Donald Trump.”

Many of those interviewed, including Hladik and Van Hecke, voted for the congresswoman in the past, including as recently as 2020. But that past support no longer matters.

“Once a politician gets to a certain point, there’s a point of no return,” Coker said.

Still, Cheney’s opposition to the former president has earned her some backing. John Strong, a 67-year-old Casper Republican who’s lived nearly his entire life in Wyoming, said many who plan to vote for Cheney “commend her for standing up to Trump.”

This time around, it’s not just Republicans who are participating in the GOP primary. Many Democrats and independents plan to take advantage of Wyoming’s same-day voter registration and party-affiliation changes to vote for Cheney.

According to figures from the Wyoming Secretary of State, the number of registered Democrats and independents in Wyoming has dropped considerably more from January through July of this year than in previous midterm elections.

Cheney has a 53% job approval rating with Democrats who planned to vote in the Republican primary, the poll shows. Her approval rating among independents who plan to vote Republican in August is 29%.

Many crossover voters who intend to support Cheney cite her resolve in fighting back against Trump’s attempts to undermine the results of the 2020 presidential election.

“This is a straight value question. And the question is whether you’re on board with democracy or not,” said Jane Ifland, a two-time Democratic candidate for statehouse and a pro-abortion activist who’s lived in Casper since 1980.

“I just can’t believe it,” she said. “I’ve never registered Republican in my life.”

But because of the relatively small number of Democrats in Wyoming, crossover voting is unlikely to make a difference, the poll shows. While 69% of registered Democrats who plan to participate in the GOP primary are supporting Cheney, that level of support still leaves her trailing Hageman by a wide margin.

Harriet Hageman

Harriet Hageman waves to supporters on Tuesday during the Central Wyoming Fair and Rodeo parade in downtown Casper. Hageman has a commanding lead over incumbent Rep. Liz Cheney, a new poll shows.

Before jumping into the race with Trump’s endorsement in tow, Hageman, a well-known attorney, ran for governor in 2018 and finished third with 21% of the vote. She was born and raised on a family ranch outside of Fort Laramie and attended the University of Wyoming for undergraduate and law school.

Just over half of all primary voters have a favorable opinion of Hageman, the poll shows. Among registered GOP voters, the number is higher — at 57%.

Cheney and Hageman used to be friendly, something that Cheney plastered on a billboard on a major highway coming into Casper this spring.

“Hageman: Liz Cheney is a Proven, Courageous Constitutional Conservative. Thanks, Harriet,” the billboard says next to a picture of the two women smiling together.

Since joining the race, Hageman has pushed the narrative that Cheney is too distracted by her fights with Trump to properly serve Wyoming. She also frequently touts her history of fighting the federal government in court.

Republican U.S. Congresswoman Liz Cheney of Wyoming says former President Donald Trump is a domestic threat, the likes of which the United States has never faced before. Cheney is one of just two Republicans on the House committee investigating the former president's effort to overturn the 2020 election and his encouragement of the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. On Tuesday at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California, she spelled out why she finds Trump so dangerous.

Until the last couple months, Cheney rarely campaigned, despite having millions of dollars in the bank. In roughly the last month, however, Cheney has put out three TV ads and multiple mailers. Hageman has put out mailers, but has focused on her ground game, often appearing at local events and holding town halls. While Cheney participated in the latest Jan. 6 hearing, Hageman walked in Casper’s annual summer parade on Tuesday.

Cheney and Hageman are the highest-profile candidates in the race, but there are others. State Sen. Anthony Bouchard, R-Burns, garnered 5% support. Bouchard was the first to challenge Cheney, but his campaign faltered after he admitted in May 2021 that he impregnated a 14-year-old girl when he was 18. Small business owner Robyn Belinskey and retired army colonel Denton Knapp each polled at 1%.

The primary will be held Aug. 16.

Follow state politics reporter Victoria Eavis on Twitter @Victoria_Eavis

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