Monday, January 06, 2014

 

Why Ask WY?

Well, well, well.

Liz Cheney abruptly drops her Wyoming primary challenge to incumbent Sen. Mike Enzi -- almost as abruptly as she jumped in last summer. Most party-affiliated polling had Enzi with a wide lead. Unlike similar GOP races in 2010 and '12, Enzi was hardly out of favor with Tea Party activists. Rather, it seemed, as a few people on Twitter noted Sunday night, Cheney wanted to ride Tea Party energy to lift her profile, raise money and either defeat Enzi or -- barring that -- force him out.

That didn't happen. Instead, most establishment Republicans -- including Enzi's Senate GOP colleagues -- supported Enzi. The worst part though, for Cheney, was the family blowup caused by her opposition to same-sex marriage.  Dick Cheney -- with younger daughter Mary an out lesbian for many years, as early as 2004, expressed support for some version of marriage equality. "Freedom means freedom for everyone," he famously said during a campaign stop -- a position well ahead of many Democrats at the time (even as campaign strategist Karl Rove was pushing "traditional marriage" statutes at the state level).  Regardless, Liz announced during her campaign that she supported traditional marriage -- with Mary and her wife Heather -- denouncing her on Facebook.  Dick, in this instance, publicly supported Liz.

However, POLITICO notably says that despite fundraising and polling numbers working against her, it was a problem involving "immediate family" members that caused her to drop out.

I don't have many contacts in Wyoming. In fact, I have exactly one -- a businessman friend who opened a new office there a  few years ago, after having had a successful operation on the East Coast. During his time there, he's gotten involved more in the local political scene. When we chatted back in September, he mentioned that the rift within the Cheney clan had become quite the talk of the state -- and the reaction was striking. While conservative Wyoming was certainly not ready for gay marriage, many people were dismayed at Liz's actions. The sentiment was that "family was family" -- and Liz had essentially turned her back on her sister for political reasons. Now, one should keep in mind that it seemed pretty clear that much of the state saw Liz as a carpetbagger for whom they had little regard. In other words, she didn't come in with much goodwill for them. Resident views on how Liz treated Mary was being seen through the prism of this Jenny-come-lately barging into their state.

That said, it is what it is.  Some Wyoming residents felt Liz wasn't being too sisterly. So, it's somewhat ironic if this issue may be the one causing Liz to bow out of the race.

One last point: Aafter frustrating 2010 and '12 races caused the GOP to lose winnable seats -- and thus, potentially, the Senate majority -- don't be surprised if party elders told as many people in the Cheney camp as possible that this was a bad race, that it was an unnecessary drain on party resources that could be better spent elsewhere.

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