Liz Cheney’s Announcement Sets Up GOP Battle

It’s rare when two candidates make a public pronouncement about their political plans on the same day, but that’s what happened yesterday in the Equality State of Wyoming. Shortly after three-term Sen. Mike Enzi (R) confirmed that he will run for re-election next year, but said he will make a formal announcement at a later date, Liz Cheney, the daughter of the former vice president and ex-Wyoming Congressman Dick Cheney, released a video officially launching a primary campaign against the senator.

Immediately the Republican establishment in Washington and the state began rallying around Enzi. His senatorial colleague, John Barrasso an appointed senator who was overwhelmingly elected to a full term in his own right last November, immediately endorsed his re-election. The state’s lone US House member, Rep. Cynthia Lummis (R), quickly followed with her own public support. National Republican Senatorial Committee chairman Jerry Moran (R-KS) also went public with an Enzi endorsement and pledged to put the resources of his organization behind the senator.

Even noted Tea Party leader and national conservative, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), confirmed that, though they don’t agree on all issues, he considers Enzi to be a “good conservative.”

Sen. Enzi also called out Cheney, in a round-about way describing her a liar. As quoted in “Politico,” Enzi offered that Cheney previously said she wouldn’t run if he (Enzi) sought re-election. “That wasn’t correct,” he said.

Though the Cheney family’s roots are deep in Wyoming, Liz Cheney’s are not. Up until last year, she and her immediate family lived in the northern Virginia suburbs. She was born in Wisconsin, attended high school in Virginia, graduated college in Colorado, received her law degree from the University of Chicago, and spent her professional career in Washington. The home-grown contrast with the former shoe business owner from Gillette, who was raised in Thermopolis and Sheridan and served in the state House and Senate beginning with his election in 1986 before winning his US Senate seat in 1996, will be stark.

Clearly, Cheney knows she won’t win the endorsement game, nor become the party insiders’ favorite. Particularly before such a small electorate – Wyoming is the smallest state from a population perspective in the country (just over 563,000 statewide) and can expect a Republican primary turnout of barely more than 100,000 – the challenger will command as much in the way of campaign resources as she needs. Enzi is not a particularly strong fundraiser, but he is guaranteed to have whatever it will take to conduct a strong campaign. His June 30 financial disclosure report will show $488,000 cash-on-hand.

Therefore, it will be the message that wins or loses this race. Based upon Cheney’s announcement video, shot in a Wyoming pasture, she will attempt to nationalize the race, making a vote for her symbolize deep opposition to the Obama Administration’s over-reach and the path onto which the country has fallen. She will attempt to stir the electorate into a conservative fever pitch against Washington, with her own candidacy as the remedy.

Sen. Enzi, on the other hand, will also illuminate what is wrong with the Obama administration, but will infuse the campaign with his calming, down-home approach, and will rely upon his deep roots within the constituency to show that there is little in the way of issue difference between he and Cheney.

Despite her ability to command campaign resources from conservative sources across the country, this will be a tough race for Liz Cheney. She has only one victory scenario, making the electorate so concerned and upset about their federal government that they will helplessly view her as their only cause of action. All other scenarios favor Enzi.

The Wyoming primary is scheduled for Aug. 19, 2014. The winner of this election claims the seat in November.

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