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January 07, 2014 11:08 am

Cheney campaign seemed doomed from the very start

Written by Tom Lawrence

Liz Cheney’s campaign to wrest the Republican nomination for the Senate seat held by Sen. Mike Enzi came to an end Monday.

But that effort had been doomed almost from the beginning. While Cheney cited unspecified “serious health issues” in her family for her decision, it has been clear for months that her campaign was also ailing.

She was wise to drop out, both because of the apparent need to tend to her family, and since she had almost no chance to win the August Republican primary. In fact, it’s difficult to understand why she ever thought she could unseat the popular Enzi.

Just look at the facts:

Mike Enzi has been in public life in Wyoming for 40 years, and has never lost an election. He served two terms as mayor of Gillette, and saw that community blossom and double in size during his eight years in charge.

After a brief respite from politics, Enzi was elected to two terms in the state House and three in the state Senate. In 1996, Enzi was elected to the U.S. Senate, and has claimed two easy re-election wins since.

Enzi won with 76 percent of the vote in 2008. This is a popular, well-respected politician, not exactly easy picking for a fledgling candidate like Liz Cheney.

She showed exactly how new she was to politics almost from the start. Cheney clumsily attempted to make an issue of Enzi’s age when she announced. He turns 70 on Feb. 1, while Cheney is 47.

“It’s time for a new generation,” she said last summer, and added that Enzi may have confused her with Rep. Cynthia Lummis when he said he was surprised she was running against him. These attacks on Enzi didn’t play well in Wyoming.

Shortly after her announcement, Cheney was embarrassed when the Casper Star-Tribune reported that she had incorrectly claimed to be a longtime Wyoming resident when she obtained a fishing license. While Cheney blamed a clerk for the error, she was forced to post a $220 bond to cover a fine and the court costs.

What was far more damaging was this reminder that she has been living in Virginia for several years, and had little claim to Wyoming roots, despite her assertions that her family had lived here for decades. Cheney was born in Wyoming, and has spent the vast majority of her life in other states.

A later report that her husband Phil Perry was registered to vote in both Virginia and Wyoming only added to this perception.

The problems kept piling up.

Cheney attacked a newspaper editor and newspapers in general during a speech, which didn’t make her popular with the people who work for Wyoming’s papers. The fact that her withdrawal was first reported by CNN and other national media shows a lack of connection with Wyoming.

Another puzzling decision was when her mother picked a fight with former Sen. Al Simpson during an event at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West, sparking days of unfavorable coverage, and causing Simpson, who had vowed to remain neutral, to endorse Enzi.

The most persistent issue was gay marriage, as Cheney was caught in a difficult position. Her sister Mary Cheney is married to a woman, and her parents Dick and Lynne Cheney had endorsed same-sex marriage.

Some comments Liz Cheney has made in the past seemed to indicate she did, too, and an out-of-state group ran TV ads saying she was flip-flopping on the issue. Liz Cheney insisted she was opposed to same-sex marriage, which drew sharp responses from Mary Cheney and her wife.

It was a no-win position, with Cheney unable to find a stance on the issue that did not seem to harm her. She also accused the Enzi camp of running a “push poll” telling voters she was pro-marriage and pro-choice on abortion, but Enzi denied it and Cheney was unable to validate her claim.

She may have been better off saying she supported her sister and stood by earlier statements, but Cheney was coming at Enzi from the right, and counting on support from the Tea Party wing of the GOP. She needed the support of social conservatives.

In the end, Cheney dropped out of a race in which she trailed badly. Polls showed her anywhere from 30 to 50 points behind Enzi; while she disputed those figures, she never revealed polling data that showed her any closer.

Cheney left the race by labeling herself “a mother and a patriot” who will continue to fight for “fundamental values” that made America and Wyoming great. She will also be remembered as someone who ran one of the most fundamentally flawed and inept campaigns ever witnessed in both America and Wyoming.

We wish her family well, and will keep an eye on her. She is still young, rich and has a name that provides her the spotlight. Cheney has connections to many people who would back her campaign, and if she chooses to stay in Wyoming, invest her time and energy into this state, she could perhaps be a viable candidate for another office at another time.

If she runs again, she would likely do a better job. It’d be hard not to, really.

1 Comment

  • Comment Link January 15, 2014 7:55 am posted by Salty Dawg

    Some things just aren't meant to be,and this is one of them.

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