By Jim EllisFeb. 1, 2021 — Ten Republican House members voted to impeach then-President Donald Trump in January and already primary challenges are being announced against some, the most serious of which appears to be aimed at Republican Conference chair Liz Cheney (R-WY). A new poll suggests that she would badly trail a challenger in her presumed battle for re-nomination come August of 2022 in the at-large Wyoming Republican primary race.
Of the 10, seven already have announced Republican opponents, four of which appear potentially serious. The quartet facing what could become a serious challenge are Reps. Cheney, Tom Rice (R-SC), Dan Newhouse (R-WA), and David Valadao (R-CA). The others with minor challengers are Reps. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL), Anthony Gonzalez (R-OH), and Peter Meijer (R-MI). Those seeing no announced challenger are Reps. Fred Upton (R-MI), John Katko (R-NY), and Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-WA).
As many as 1,000 people, according to the Casper Star-Tribune reporter covering the event, gathered at the Wyoming state Capitol in Cheyenne Late last week to listen to Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Ft. Walton Beach/Pensacola) and Donald Trump Jr., the latter via telephone, attack Rep. Cheney for her vote to impeach former President Trump.
McLaughlin & Associates released a new poll testing Rep. Cheney against one announced opponent, state Sen. Anthony Bouchard (R-Laramie), and a presumed challenger, state Rep. Chuck Gray (R-Casper). The results suggest Cheney has serious internal political problems.
The McLaughlin poll was conducted during the Jan. 25-27 period and surveyed 500 general election likely voters. According to their data, Cheney’s re-elect score is only 13 percent, which drops to an even lower 10 percent when only Republicans are segmented. Paired directly with state Sen. Bouchard, Rep. Cheney would trail 54-21 percent.
In a three-way contest with Sen. Bouchard and Rep. Gray, the congresswoman finds herself drawing only 21 percent support among Republicans, as compared to Sen. Bouchard’s 27 percent and Gray’s 17 percent. As in many instances when incumbents are challenged, a crowded field helps the better-known office holder because the opposition votes are split among several candidates.
The Wyoming primary is 19 months away, and much will happen between now and then. The rabid opposition to Cheney, however, may not totally dissipate in what was Trump’s top state in his two consecutive elections. Therefore, with credible opposition and deep-seeded fervor developing here over her action against Trump, this challenge appears to be the most serious of all those facing attacks for supporting the impeachment proceeding.
Another serious race could develop against South Carolina’s Rep. Rice. During the week, state Rep. William Bailey (R-Horry County) announced that he is forming a federal exploratory committee to assess his chances of denying Rep. Rice re-nomination in June of 2022.
In this instance, a presumed crowded field may not help Rep. Rice. South Carolina is a runoff state, meaning if the congressman is held under 50 percent, he can’t win with a plurality. Two weeks later, he would face one other top vote getter in a runoff election, thus allowing an opponent a head-to-head opportunity. Here, a majority must be obtained to win a Palmetto State party nomination.
A system that would help both challenged incumbents is present in California and Washington. Former Fresno City Councilman Chris Mathys (R) announced that he will oppose Rep. Valadao, a four-term congressman who lost his seat in 2018 and re-gained it last November. Valadao represents one of the most Biden-heavy districts in the nation to elect a Republican congressman. In Washington, state Rep. Brad Klippert (R-Kennewick) just yesterday declared his candidacy against Rep. Newhouse, and clearly could be a serious challenger.
In both of these instances, the respective state uses a top-two “jungle” primary system. This places all candidates, regardless of political party affiliation, on the same ballot and the top two advance into the general election. Here, all Reps. Valadao and Newhouse need to do is place second to guarantee themselves a ballot position for the general election. A November ‘22 playing field, regardless of their eventual opponent’s identity, would likely assist both incumbents.
While the impeachment process will be long gone by the time the next set of primary elections come about, it may well prove true that the associated post-political ramifications will affect those involved for a very long time.