It’s all but certain that as early as next week House Republicans will strip Rep. Liz Cheney of her number-three GOP leadership position – but Cheney faces another major headache back home in Wyoming, as Republicans are plotting to oust her as the state’s lone representative in Congress when she’s up for re-election next year.
Cheney, the most high profile of the 10 House Republicans to vote in January to impeach then-President Trump for inciting the deadly insurrection at the U.S. Capitol by right-wing extremists, is facing primary challenges from an increasing number of GOP candidates. That, however, might be Cheney’s saving grace: A crowded field likely divides the anti-Cheney and pro-Trump vote.
It wasn’t that long ago that the conservative Cheney, the daughter of former Republican Vice President Dick Cheney, was a rising star in the GOP. But thanks to her impeachment vote over Trump’s role in the storming of the Capitol and her vocal criticism of Trump’s repeated unfounded claims that the 2020 presidential election was “rigged” and “stolen,” she’s become a party pariah and is now at the top of the former president’s list of Republican enemies.
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Speaking at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in February, Trump urged his supporters to “get rid” of Cheney and added “hopefully they’ll get rid of her with the next election.”
Earlier this week he warned against splitting the anti-Cheney vote, arguing in a statement that “her only chance would be if vast numbers of people run against her which, hopefully, won’t happen.”
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The former president’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., is also cautioning against multiple primary challengers.
The younger Trump called into an anti-Cheney rally in Wyoming earlier this year, emphasizing “let’s not split this vote up and blow an opportunity to get rid of a RINO,” which is the acronym for Republican in name only.
A source familiar with Donald Trump Jr.’s thinking tells Fox News that “getting rid of Liz Cheney is right near the top of his 2022 to do list. You can expect him to be very engaged in that race.”
“While he and his father haven’t landed on a specific candidate yet, that will come sooner probably rather than later. They look forward to uniting the party in Wyoming,” the source added.
The former president’s team is following the burgeoning race, with a separate source close to Trump’s orbit saying that among those Republican candidates or potential contenders they’re watching are businessman Darin Smith, state lawmaker Chuck Gray, and state Sen. Anthony Bouchard – who’s raised $400,000 since launching his bid a couple of months ago.
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Surveys by Trump’s pollster and by the fiscally conservative and anti-tax outside group Club for Growth both suggest that Cheney would face a very challenging renomination if she faces off against a single primary challenger.
The Club for Growth’s political wing is vetting potential Cheney challengers, traveling to Wyoming recently to interview close to a dozen people.
“We’re definitely spending a lot of effort making sure we get the right person to run to challenge Cheney,” Club for Growth President David McIntosh told Fox News.
McIntosh said his “goal to is create unity” with Trump’s political team and with the Wyoming GOP, which censured Cheney earlier this year, in order to “narrow down to a couple of different potential candidates.”
He said the Club for Growth’s PAC “will bundle contributions from our donors around the country. I can’t tell you the number of them who have already called me and said ‘when will you give us a candidate in Wyoming. We want to contribute to that person.’”
And, McIntosh touted that “we’ll spend what it takes to win.”
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Smith, who unsuccessfully ran for Congress in 2016 in an open seat race won by Cheney, told Fox News he’s “seriously considering making a run” and that “if we get in, it will be soon.”
Smith added that he’s “America First all the way,” and that “if I were to get in and he (Trump) were to endorse me, that would just be over the top.”
But he also worried about a plethora of primary challengers dividing the anti-Cheney vote. “That’s the hope of the left. I think that we’re smarter than we were in the past,” he emphasized.
And he added that “If I’m in and somebody is running stronger than me or gets the nod from Trump, and takes off, then I’m going to fold in behind that person.”
Bouchard wasn’t as concerned with the growing field of contenders.
He said that the “climate is good for conservatives.” And pointing to his fundraising haul to date, he highlighted that “I think everyone knows I’m the front runner and we plan to stay in that position… we’ve exceeded every financial goal that we’ve had.”
The barrage of attacks from Trump and his allies seems to have energized Cheney’s fundraising. Last month the congresswoman reported a record $1.54 million haul during the January-March first quarter of fundraising for her 2022 reelection campaign.
A source familiar with Cheney’s thinking tells Fox News that “she is running and she plans on winning” next year.
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Cheney world acknowledges that there’s anger over her impeachment vote in January, but they feel that there’s also support, arguing that people recognize she did the right thing.
Expect Cheney to run for re-election on her achievements as an important advocate for the state, showcasing that she’s accomplished a lot in Washington because she’s an effective legislator. Also expect Cheney to talk directly to voters and explain her impeachment vote, and make the case that the 2020 presidential election wasn’t stolen.
Fox News’ Jason Donner contributed to this report.