Liz Cheney had long expected to lose the Republican primary race in Wyoming — and with it her seat in the U.S. House of Representatives — to Donald Trump-backed challenger Harriet Hageman.
So when the moment arrived on Tuesday night, she was ready to move quickly on a new political mission for herself and others who have been purged from the party for daring to antagonize the former president.
Cheney plans to start a political movement – likely to be called “The Great Task” – whose primary goal will be to prevent Trump from winning the White House again in 2024, as he remains the Republican Party frontrunner.
“I’m going to make sure people across the country understand the stakes of what we’re up against, [and] understand how now we have a majority political party — my party — that has really become a cult of personality,” she told NBC on Wednesday.
Cheney — the daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney — faces a lonely battle within the party to achieve that goal, as the vast majority of its lawmakers staunchly support Trump or refrain from criticizing him.
“Cheney would continue to identify as a Republican, of course, but she would definitely be on the fringes of her party: what was once on the fringe is now in the center and the center is on the fringes,” said Matt Continetti, senior fellow at the American Institute of Business.
It’s also unclear whether mainstream republicanism enjoys enough popular support across the country to successfully mobilize conservative voters to turn their backs on Trump — or even provide a launching pad for Cheney’s rival presidential race in 2024.
But Cheney, who has established herself as Trump’s most prominent Republican critic as vice chair of the congressional panel investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol, has taken a political stance that he will be hard to ignore.
In September, she will chair the public hearings of the commission charged with deepening the insurrection, which will put her back at the center of the political debate. Meanwhile, a range of conservative donors in finance and business are willing to fund his efforts as part of a last ditch effort to restore the party’s institutionalist roots.
“This isn’t the last you’ll hear from Liz Cheney, and frankly, this isn’t the last you’ll hear from us,” said Peter Kellner, founder and managing partner of the firm. investment Richmond Global, which has donated Cheney as well as David McCormick and Jaime Herrera Beutler this year — all Republicans who have lost primary races to Trump-endorsed rivals.
“We are an angry bunch, but we have more pride than anger, in terms of patriotism,” he added. “If I were Liz, I’d feel great about myself. And I’d sleep well knowing that many of us consider her one of the most important Americans of our generation.
Doug Heye, a Republican strategist, said Cheney’s efforts may not be entirely pipe dream. The primary races showed that while in Wyoming the grip of Trumpism remains tight, in some swing states, like Pennsylvania, Trump-backed candidates have prevailed, but not by huge margins.
Still, his path will likely be narrow. Cheney’s family association with the George W Bush administration, as well as her decidedly right-wing stances on issues such as abortion, may alienate some center-left voters, even as respect for her among liberals has grown. as she fought to hold Trump to account.
If she runs for president, the anger against her from the right will only escalate, whether she’s running against Trump for the Republican nomination or on an independent ticket.
“Cheney’s most successful avenue is to maintain platforms through which she can continue to speak out in her criticism of Trump and in her opposition to his restoration. It can be more immediate than a political campaign,” AEI’s Continetti said.
“If she decides to run for president, she would probably be tempted to run in the Republican Party just for the chance to appear on stage with Donald Trump in one of the debates,” he added. “I also believe that the Institutional Republican Party, if Donald Trump runs, will do everything in their power to prevent this from happening.”
Strategist Heye said while Cheney has signaled she wants to keep the fight against Trump alive, she still needs to refine her plan and goals.
“We don’t know what the strategy behind this will be. Last night she said she was not going to stop in her efforts to stop Donald Trump from being president again. It’s very different from wanting to become the next president,” Heye said on Wednesday. “And a lot of people who run for president don’t run hoping they’ll be president.”