Liz Cheney is ready to lose. But she’s not ready to let it go.

Cheyenne, Wyo. – It was just over a month before her primary, but Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming was nowhere near the voters weighing her future.

Instead, Mrs. Cheney met with fellow lawmakers and aides at the Capitol complex, bolstering her allies in a cause she believes is more important than her House seat: undoing American politics from the ‘former president Donald J Trump and his influence.

“The nine of us have done more to prevent Trump from regaining power than any group has ever done,” he told colleagues on the group investigating Mr. Trump in the attack on the Capitol of January 6. “We can’t leave it.”

The most watched primary of 2022 has not turned into a great race. Polls show Ms. Cheney losing heavily to her rival, Harriet Hageman, Mr. Trump’s vehicle for revenge, and the congresswoman has been virtually driven out of her Trump-loving state, in part because of death threats. says his office.

However, for Mrs. Cheney, the race stopped being about political survival months ago. Instead, he has used the August 16 contest as a kind of high-profile stage for his martyrdom and a proving ground for his new crusade. He used the only debate to tell voters to “vote for someone else” if they wanted a politician who would violate their oath of office. Last week, he asked his father, former Vice President Dick Cheney, for a cut an announcement calling Mr. Trump a “coward” who represents the greatest threat to the United States in the history of the republic.

In a state where Mr. Trump won 70 percent of the vote two years ago, Ms. Cheney might as well be asking ranchers to go vegan.

“If the cost of standing up for the Constitution is losing a House seat, that’s a price I’m willing to pay,” he said in an interview this week in the conference room of a Cheyenne bank.

The 56-year-old daughter of a politician who once had visions of reaching the top of the House leadership but landed as vice speaker has become arguably the most important grassroots member of the Congress of modern times. Few others have so aggressively used the levers of office to try to reorient the course of American politics, but in doing so he has effectively sacrificed his own future to the institution he grew up with.

Mrs. Cheney’s relentless focus on Mr. Trump has fueled speculation, even among longtime family friends, that he is preparing to run for president. It has done little to dissuade such talk.

At a house party Thursday night in Cheyenne, with former Vice President Dick Cheney looking on happily under a pair of top-hats, the host introduced Ms. Cheney by recalling how another Republican woman, Maine Sen. Margaret Chase Smith, stood up to Senator Joseph McCarthy when doing so was unpopular and became the first female presidential nominee of a major party.

The audience applauded the parallel, while Mrs. Cheney smiled.

In the interview, she said she was focused on her primary and her committee work. But it’s far from clear that she can be a viable candidate in the current Republican Party, or that she has interest in the donor class’ schemes over a third-party bid, in part because she knows she can only divert votes from a Democratic opponent. Mr Trump

Mrs. Cheney said she had no interest in switching parties: “I’m a Republican.” But when asked if the GOP he grew up in was even salvageable in the short term, he said, “Maybe it won’t be” and called his party “very sick.”

As the Trump wing of the Republican Party flexed its muscles, voters in deep-red Kansas delivered a strong warning to the GOP on abortion rights.

The party, he said, “continues to be driven in a ditch and I think it will take several cycles if it can be healed.”

Mrs. Cheney suggested she was as encouraged by Trumpism as Mr. trump She might support a Republican for president in 2024, she said, but her red line is a refusal to state clearly that Mr. Trump lost a legitimate election in 2020.

Asked if the ranks of off-limits candidates include Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, whom many Republicans have embraced as an alternative to Trump, he said it would be “very difficult” to support Mr. DeSantis in a general election.

“I think Ron DeSantis has aligned himself almost completely with Donald Trump, and I think that’s very dangerous,” Ms. Cheney said.

It’s easy to hear other sounds of a White House bid in Mrs. Cheney’s rhetoric.

In Cheyenne, she channeled the concerns of “mothers” and what she described as her hunger for “someone who is competent.” Having largely scorned identity politics (Mrs. Cheney was the only lawmaker not to pose for a photo of Congresswomen after 2018), she now freely discusses gender and her perspective as a mother .

“These days, for the most part, men run the world, and it’s really not going so well,” she said in June when she spoke at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California.

In a sign that Mrs. Cheney’s political awakening goes beyond her disdain for Mr. Trump said he prefers the ranks of Democratic women with national security backgrounds on the right flank of his party.

“I would rather serve with Mikie Sherrill and Chrissy Houlahan and Elissa Slotkin than Marjorie Taylor Greene and Lauren Boebert, even though deep down I certainly have strong disagreements with the Democratic women I just mentioned,” Ms. Cheney said in the interview “But they love this country, they do their homework and they’re people who are trying to do the right thing for the country.”

Mrs. Cheney is more certain of her diagnosis of what ails the GOP than of her prescription for reform.

He has no post-congressional political organization in the pipeline and has benefited from Democratic donors, whose affections can be ephemeral. To the frustration of some allies, he has not expanded his inner circle beyond family and a handful of close advisers. Never a joke, he said he longed for what he remembered as his father’s era of policy-focused politics.

“What the country needs are serious people who are willing to engage in policy debates,” said Ms. Cheney.

It’s all a far cry from the Liz Cheney of a decade ago, who had a contract to appear regularly on Fox News and would use her guest hosting gig with Sean Hannity to present her hard-line conservative views and savage former President Barack Obama and the democrats .

Today, Mrs. Cheney admits no specific regrets about helping to create the atmosphere that led to Mr. Cheney’s takeover of her party. trump However, he acknowledged a “reflexive partisanship that I’ve been guilty of” and noted that January 6 “demonstrated how dangerous that is.”

Few lawmakers today face these dangers as regularly as Mrs. Cheney, who has had a full-time Capitol Police security detail for nearly a year because of threats against her — the protection of a few base legislators have assigned. She no longer gives advance notice of her trip to Wyoming and, unwelcome at most county and state Republican events, has turned her campaign into a series of invitation-only House parties.

What’s more puzzling than her timing is why Ms. Cheney, who has raised more than $13 million, hasn’t poured more money into the race, especially early on when she had a chance to define Ms. Hageman. Mrs. Cheney had spent about half of her war chest by early July, prompting speculation that she was saving money for future efforts against Trump.

Mrs. Cheney has long since stopped attending meetings of House Republicans. When she’s at the Capitol, she spends much of her time with Democrats at the Jan. 6 panel and often heads to the Lindy Boggs Room, the lawmakers’ reception room, instead of the House floor. with the House GOP conference dominated by men. Some members of the Jan. 6 panel were surprised by how often his Zoom background is his suburban Virginia home.

In Washington, even some Republicans who are also eager to move on from Mr. Trump questions Mrs. Cheney’s decision to wage open war against her own party. It is limiting their future influence, they argue.

“It depends on whether you want to go out in the light of glory and be ineffective or whether you want to try to be effective,” said Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, who has his own aspirations for future leadership. “I respect her, but I wouldn’t have made the same choice.”

Ms. Cheney notes that the Jan. 6 investigation, with its prime-time hearings, is seen by critics as an attention-seeking opportunity. He has turned down some opportunities that could have been useful for his ambitions, especially the proposals of documentary filmmakers.

Still, to her skeptics at home, Mrs. Cheney’s attacks on Mr. Trump has resurrected dormant questions about her ties to the state and raised fears that she has gone to Washington and embraced the opposition, rejecting the political views of the voters who gave her and her father their start in electoral politics. .

At a rally in Casper last month, held while Mrs. Cheney was in Washington preparing for a hearing, Mrs. Hageman received frequent cheers from voters who said the incumbent had lost her way.

“His voting record is not bad,” Casper resident Julie Hitt said. “But a lot of their focus is on January 6.”

“She’s so in bed with the Democrats, with Pelosi and all these people,” interjected Bruce Hitt, Mrs. Hitt’s husband.

Notably, no voters interviewed at the parade brought up Mrs. Cheney’s support for the gun control bill the House passed a few weeks earlier, the kind of apostasy that would have enraged Wyoming Republicans in a more recent era. dominated by politics than a man’s personality.

“Her vote on the gun bill got almost no publicity,” said a bemused Mike Sullivan, a former Democratic governor of Wyoming who intends to vote for Ms. Cheney in the primary. (Ms. Cheney is pressuring independents and Democrats to re-register as Republicans, at least long enough to vote for her in the primaries.)

For Mrs. Cheney, any sense of disconnection about this moment — a Cheney, Republican royalty, effectively being read by the party — has faded in the year and a half since the attack on the Capitol.

When she attended the funeral of former Wyoming senator Mike Enzi last year, Ms. Cheney welcomed a visiting delegation of Republican senators. As he greeted them one by one, several praised his bravery and told him to keep fighting Mr. Trump, he recalled.

She did not miss the opportunity to remind them forcefully: They too could join her.

“There have been so many moments like this,” he told the bank, a hint of weariness in his voice.

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