Politics

Preview 2024? Cheney telegraphs his next move to Trump.


“To continue to have a podium to speak, she should be a national candidate,” said Paul Vogelheim, a Republican candidate for Wyoming state legislature who attended Cheney’s concession speech. Vogelheim predicted that Cheney would stick to the GOP presidential primary if she ran in 2024, recalling her “adamant” vow that she would not switch parties.

If Cheney shows up, it won’t be a surprise: She’s stoked speculation for more than a year about her next steps, stating in the spring of 2021 that she would not rule out a bid for the White House as fellow House Republicans began plotting her expulsion from the leadership. And the way she ran her campaign in the House, running national ads that appeared to overwhelm conservative voters in Wyoming and bail out her coffers, only bolstered speculation in Washington that she was already looking beyond her state.

In the end, she lost by the overwhelming margin predicted by most public polls. Kevin McCarthy, who is set to claim the speaker’s gavel once seen as a possible prize for Cheney herself, called it a ‘referendum’ on her work alongside Democrats investigating Trump during the select committee of January 6. But other colleagues saw her as already looking beyond her own main battle.

“You say what you want about Liz, but she’s not naive. She knows exactly what she’s doing,” Rep. Kelly Armstrong (RN.D.) said in an interview late last week. “I think Liz is running the race she wants to run.”

All of his next steps against Trump carry risks. She could run in the GOP primary, making a play to kneel her before a general election, but this strategy could set her up as little more than a foil which helps Trump motivate his base to come forward.

The 56-year-old could also take a page from H. Ross Perot’s playbook, staging a third-party campaign in hopes of steering voters away from Trump. Perot became the most successful third party candidate in modern US history in 1992, winning 19% of the vote in a race on a platform of fiscal conservatism and social centrism.

Former President George HW Bush later blamed his fellow Texan for helping Bill Clinton in the White House by siphoning off GOP votes. While some polls at the time showed Perot more evenly taking potential support from the two main-party candidates, there’s no guarantee that Cheney wouldn’t also benefit Trump on a third-party ticket that could draw votes from swing voters and Democrats who want a candidate other than President Joe Biden.

Indeed, Cheney’s stoic concession speech on Tuesday night seemed to win over her new Democratic fans beyond the cross-sectional allies she had already won on Capitol Hill and the dozens of Wyoming Democrats who had crossed to vote for her on Tuesday. (Her seat on the Jan. 6 panel, as Republicans often note, came directly from Speaker Nancy Pelosi.)

“All policy differences aside, @Liz_Cheney is now and always will be known as an American hero,” tweeted Michigan Democratic Attorney General Dana Nessel.

But this approach has its limits. Scott Horn, 65, was among the Wyoming Democrats who changed their registration to support Cheney. Voting Tuesday morning in Jackson, the bluest part of the state, Horn called his decision to go against Trump and his party “brave.”

But a House primary vote for Cheney is as far as he’s willing to go given the rest of his conservative positions, especially on abortion. After this week, Horn said, “I’m going to be a Democrat again,” and I won’t be able to support her if she runs for president.

Cheney’s allies say she won’t run for president if she feels it would help Trump rather than hurt him. Yet the loss of his House seat leaves him with few other avenues to remain visible in his mission to prevent him from continuing his public duties.

And if she takes the plunge, she may gain support from deep-pocketed groups looking to help the country move in a different direction.

The bipartisan group No Labels, which is closely aligned with the House Problem Solvers Caucus, is seeking to get involved in the 2024 presidential race with significant funds it has already raised to help centrist candidates. According to three people familiar with the group’s discussions, Cheney’s name is among the candidates he would consider dedicating part of his $50 million stash to, with some suggesting her as a potential running mate for a candidate like Sen. Joe Manchin. (DW.Va.).

No matter where Cheney lands in the 2024 campaign, she has made it clear for weeks that her political fate is tied to Trump’s.

After swearing to POLITICO last year that “I’m not going to lose my seat,” Cheney’s tone recently changed to acknowledging the inevitability of his loss to Hageman. Throughout the summer, she focused on her panel work selected on January 6 – and last month praised young women like Cassidy Hutchinson and Sarah Matthews who testified before the committee under pressure obvious personal.

When Cheney described Hutchinson, a former White House aide to Trump at the time, she made a comparison as subtle but unequivocal as the Lincoln reference she made Tuesday night.

Hutchinson “knew all along that she would be attacked by President Trump and the men in their 50s, 60s and 70s who hide behind executive privilege,” Cheney said last month. “But…she has courage, and she did it anyway.”

She is set to return to the Hill last month for more select committee hearings, with most other incumbent Republicans viewing her as a failed martyr for the anti-Trump movement in their party. Even Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell — whom some allies pushed back after Trump-aligned forces in the RNC censored her and Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) earlier this year — saw her resistance fierce at the former president as counterproductive, according to the recent book “This Will Not Pass”.

And some of her longtime House friends will only quietly acknowledge that they still love Cheney, even if they disagree with what she was doing.

“I’m going to miss being lectured and talked about the Constitution,” Rep. Lance Gooden (R-Texas) ironically quipped Friday about his potential ouster from the campaign.

All of this leaves Cheney still searching for a home in a GOP that remains largely in Trump’s sway, even as he faces a Justice Department investigation and other legal clouds. For his supporters, however, there is plenty of time to carve his way out of the Republican wasteland.

Stuart Thompson, 75, a self-proclaimed longtime friend of former Vice President Dick Cheney, said he was one of the only people in his county to hang a Cheney sign outside their home.

“I don’t see any way now for her to get the Republican nomination,” Thompson said. “But hopefully there are enough regular Republicans — Reagan Republicans, whatever you want to call them — that they can get together and join the party. Somehow.”

Sarah Ferris contributed to this report.



Politico

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