By Jim Ellis
Sept. 14, 2021 — Movement is occurring in the Wyoming Republican primary challenge race against at-large Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wilson). At this point, however, the latest developments may still not be enough to deny her re-nomination in a crowded open GOP primary scheduled for Aug. 16, 2022.Attorney and former Wyoming Republican National Committeewoman Harriet Hageman late last week announced her candidacy in the Equality State’s lone congressional district. She joined a throng of eight GOP candidates opposing Rep. Cheney in the 2022 primary.
A day after Hageman’s announcement, former President Donald Trump, who is the focal point of Rep. Cheney’s actions relating to the Jan. 6 uprising at the Capitol and her vote to impeach him, is now actively supporting one of the candidates.
Hageman, in a coordinated announcement and endorsement over a two-day period, entered the race knowing she had the support of the former national chief executive. Such backing has often helped other endorsed candidates prevail in similar Republican primaries.
After Trump publicized his Hageman endorsement, the field slimmed to seven as US Air Force veteran Bryan Miller and attorney Darin Smith ended their campaigns, thus answering the former President’s call for the party to unite behind one candidate.
The remaining group of contenders, state Sen. Anthony Bouchard (R-Laramie), state Rep. Chuck Gray (R-Casper), retired Army Colonel Denton Knapp, former Pavillion mayor, Marissa Joy Selvig, and two minor candidates, have not yet followed suit.
Polling suggests that the crowded field, with the anti-Cheney vote split multiple ways, could allow the congresswoman to win re-nomination with a rather small plurality. Another point in her favor is that Wyoming does not register voters by political party affiliation. In this state’s nomination elections, and in many other places, voters simply choose the party primary in which they desire to participate.
This system would allow disaffected Democrats to vote in the Republican primary. They would likely support Cheney, having the goal of thwarting the Trump and conservative forces who are attempting to oust her.
Because Rep. Cheney has gone so far to oppose Mr. Trump’s post-election actions and stances, denying her re-nomination becomes a significant test of the former president’s party leadership. Cheney has even aligned herself with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) in taking her Trump opposition to the ultimate level by serving as a member of the House select committee investigating the Capitol uprising. This was knowingly done so in defiance of House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy’s (R-CA) directive to the GOP members vis-a-vis committee participation.
If Trump and aligned conservative leaders can convince the remaining candidates to end their campaigns in favor of Ms. Hageman, the chances of defeating Rep. Cheney become very strong. The scenario where she survives, however, is the one that is unfolding during the present period.
Early polling and simple arithmetic provides support for the one challenger argument. There have only been two public polls conducted for this race since July 1, both late in that month. McLaughlin & Associates (July 26; 300 Wyoming likely Republican primary voters, live interview) and the Remington Research Group (July 28; 766 Wyoming likely Republican primary voters, interactive voice response system) conducted the surveys.
In testing six named opponents, Rep. Cheney was ahead of the pack with only 23 percent support in her own party primary even though 77 percent of the respondents in the McLaughlin poll saying they would not vote for her.
On the other hand, as the McLaughlin poll also found, certain individual candidates in a head-to-head battle, such as state Rep. Gray, would defeat the congresswoman with as much as 63-24 percent margin. The Remington survey showed similar results, though Cheney was slightly behind in their multi-candidate ballot test.
Almost a year from culmination, the Wyoming at-large House Republican primary continues to attract a great deal of national political attention. With former President Trump now actively involved in this campaign, we can be assured that the media coverage will intensify. It promises to be an interesting 11 months. Candidate filing doesn’t close until June 1, so much time remains and many things can happen until the final field is set.