Liz Cheney’s Senate Campaign Struggled From the Start

One top Republican moneyman: “Her candidacy is not helpful to our party.”

National Journal
Tom DeFrank
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Tom DeFrank
Jan. 6, 2014, 6:24 a.m.

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.

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