Liz Cheney, the older daughter of former Vice President/Puppeteer Dick Cheney, recently announced her decision to run for Wyoming’s U.S. Senate seat. Cheney’s generic Republican platform and weak ties to the state she seeks to represent don’t bode well for her candidacy, which seems to be primarily a strategy to find the path of least resistance to Washington, D.C.
Cheney challenges popular and relatively bipartisan Republican incumbent Mike Enzi in his bid for a fourth term. Cheney’s platform hardly differs from Enzi’s, and her candidacy will likely further fracture the Wyoming Republican party. Former Republican Wyoming Senator Alan Simpson calls Cheney’s candidacy “a divisive, ugly situation — and all it does is open the door for the Democrats for 20 years.”
Others don’t see Cheney as a threat to the Republican Senate seat in the reddest of the red states (second only to Utah in the 2012 polls). “Wyoming is a tiny state consisting entirely of Republicans,” says commentator Jonathan Chait. “There is no way a Liz Cheney will cause the party to lose the Senate seat, or any Senate seat. So this is just Old Man Simpson yelling at a cloud.”
Cheney’s campaign in Wyoming has also sparked contention about her legitimacy as a state resident. Her father grew up in and represented Wyoming, but Liz, dubbed “The Virginian,” spent most of her life in Wisconsin and around D.C. with very little time in Wyoming. Her Wyoming residency became the subject of scrutiny when she applied for a fishing license a few months after purchasing her pricey Jackson Hole home in spring 2012 (for which her property tax payment is two months overdue). Although protocol only allows residents of over 365 days to be eligible for a fishing license, Cheney was curiously granted the permit after living in Wyoming for only 72 days. Her application also falsely listed her as a 10-year resident — Cheney denies she claimed to be a 10-year resident and asserts, “the clerk must have made a mistake.”
Cheney plans to go to every town in the state to answer questions and win votes one by one. Her platform reads like a summary of vague conservative talking points: oppose increased taxes, federal influence, Obamacare, Obama, and Obama.
Cheney’s posture as a Wyomingite appears to be a transparent means to get to D.C. with the least competition. “I don’t think this is about the Wyoming senate seat in any way,” says Republican strategist Liz Brimmer. “I think this is really about 2020, and it’s about a Cheney for president.” Residents share Brimmer’s skepticism; Republican Wyomingite Clearance Stears says, “Maybe she’s just getting her finger in the pie as a starter, to get the experience. Learn where she made mistakes or something."
Wyoming Democratic Senator Chris Rothfuss is also wary of Cheney’s intentions and validity as a Wyoming representative: “the reason that Liz Cheney is running out of Wyoming rather than what in effect would be her home state of Virginia is because we're basically seen as a much cheaper option in trying to obtain a Senate seat. Obviously, it's an attempt to leverage her name recognition.”
Even though Cheney has spent very little time in Wyoming, she says, “I was raised on Wyoming values. I love this place. At the same time, I know how to get things done in Washington.” What she has done in Washington remains unclear — for the last 18 months she’s primarily worked as an analyst and substitute host for Fox News. “Definitely her recognition is her name, not for anything that she’s done,” says Wyomingite Matt O’Donnell. “I can’t think of one thing that she’s done other than being born a Cheney.”