Liz Cheney’s Senate candidacy was star-crossed from the start, forcing fellow Republicans into an unpleasant and polarizing fight that ultimately caused more damage to the family brand than it aided her political future.
It’s never easy to confront a three-term incumbent as conservative as you are, but Cheney created unnecessary baggage along the way, beginning in the early days of her campaign when she described 69-year-old Sen. Mike Enzi as “confused.”
For many Republicans, even some enthusiastic boosters, that struck a tone of meanness that persisted below the radar of her candidacy.
Her father was a muscular surrogate. “Liz will win this race,” an exuberant Dick Cheney told a longtime associate in November. “Remember I said that when she does.”
Dick Cheney was an aggressive fundraiser for his daughter, putting the arm on many old comrades and organizing fundraisers in Dallas, where he once lived, and several other cities.
Republican insiders said fundraising was good, but not sufficient to knock off a three-term senator. Some Cheney associates turned down his solicitations because they had never contributed to anyone challenging a GOP incumbent and weren’t about to start now.
Others were offended by what they considered Liz Cheney’s naked ambition. “Her rationale seems to be nothing more than this: Someone else has something I want, and I want it now,” a longtime Dick Cheney associate told National Journal. “That’s not a candidacy that will appeal to many Republicans, even in Wyoming.”
A prominent Republican moneyman personally fond of Dick Cheney said he openly discouraged friends who asked for advice on whether to contribute to Liz’s campaign. “The best course is to be polite and do as little as possible and hope you aren’t asked,” he said, hardly a ringing endorsement.
“Everyone loves Dick and doesn’t want to offend him, but her candidacy is not helpful to our party.”
Liz’s nasty public feud with her sister Mary over gay marriage not only offended some senior Republican elders trying to position the party in the national midstream. It also complicated fundraising in places like New York, where some wealthy GOP fundraisers sympathetic to gay rights sat on their wallets.
An unexpected Achilles’ heel: Enzi is a senior member of the Senate Finance Committee, the primary hunting ground for lobbyists in search of tax breaks for their corporations and trade groups. Many of those lobbyists, and their corporate political action committees, stuck with Enzi out of sheer political pragmatism.
The end result was that her campaign never gained much traction. But the premature end of her candidacy hardly dampens her zeal for public office — or her innate ambition.
“Liz is a rising star in Wyoming and national politics and we look forward to her return when the time is right for her and for her family,” the Wyoming Republican party wrote in a statement.