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Liz Cheney loses primary as Trump overthrows his most prominent GOP critic

Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., is set to lose her primary Tuesday to Donald Trump-backed Harriet Hageman, ABC News reports, after Cheney built her political profile — and her campaign — around criticism of the former president as an existential threat to American democracy.

Cheney’s loss was widely expected, given the partisan makeup of her seat and polls that showed her trailing Hageman. Trump won Wyoming in the last presidential election with about 70% of the vote. Still, Cheney’s defeat marks Trump’s biggest victory in his revenge tour against intraparty critics and a warning sign for other anti-Trump Republicans who are considering crossing paths with him.

The race between Cheney and Hageman, both of whom have established conservative political platforms, has largely been fought over national themes and loyalty to Trump.

Cheney focused on exposing Trump for his role in last year’s deadly Capitol insurgency, casting his re-election bid as a fight to uphold GOP principles.

Hageman, meanwhile, echoed Trump’s unsubstantiated voter fraud allegations and chastised Cheney — whom Hageman had previously advised — as a lawmaker more focused on overthrowing the de facto GOP leader.

Cheney boasts a famous surname and significantly outdated Hageman. But over time, it became clear that the three-term lawmaker was the underdog, as polls showed Republicans in Wyoming increasingly favoring her opponent.

In a sign of Cheney’s increasingly unstable position with members of her own party, her campaign launched a voter education effort to explain how they could change their party’s registration on primary day to vote for her. — although officers said there was little hope there were enough Democrats to change Cheney’s fate.

Cheney’s loss marks the end of a meteoric rise and rapid fall for a former GOP star.

Representative Liz Cheney, arrives for a hearing at the Capitol in Washington, July 12, 2022.

Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images, FILE

She was first elected in 2016 and became the third Republican in the House at the end of 2018, a rise that fueled rumors that she had her eye on the presidency one day.

However, after last year’s uprising, she became the highest ranking Republican in the House to support Trump’s impeachment and eventually became the vice chair of the special committee investigating the Capitol riot.

Her constant criticism of Trump infuriated many other House Republicans who accused her of derailing their messaging strategy, and some Wyoming voters who saw Cheney as an absentee representative more focused on the former president than on state problems.

Still, Cheney refused to modulate her message — given, she said, the danger Trump posed — and indicated she would continue to focus on fighting campaign conspiracies even after her expected loss.

“Like many candidates across the country, my opponents in Wyoming said the 2020 election was rigged and stolen. No one who understands the laws of our country, no one who has an honest, honorable, and genuine commitment to our Constitution would say that. It is a cancer that threatens our great Republic,” she said in her closing announcement. “If we don’t condemn these lies, if we don’t hold those responsible accountable, we will excuse this conduct and it will become a feature of all elections. America will never be the same again.”

Hageman, meanwhile, is expected to contest the general election in one of the country’s reddest states and be a staunch ally of Trump in the House.

“Absolutely, the election was rigged. It was rigged to ensure President Trump couldn’t be re-elected,” Hageman said at a campaign event earlier this month. “What happened in 2020 is a travesty.”

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