October 3, 2022 1:58 pm

Liz Cheney: Republican Trump critic faces election battle in Wyoming

Voters in the US state of Wyoming have cast their ballots in a primary election that pits moderate Republican views against Donald Trump’s unfounded claims of election fraud.

Liz Cheney – the sitting state congresswoman and one of the few Republicans to have been fiercely critical of the former president – faces a major challenge from a relative political newcomer and Trump-backed candidate, Harriet Hageman.

As one of only two members of her party to have joined the committee investigating Mr Trump’s attempts to cling to power, Ms Cheney has placed her three-term tenure on the line.

All 10 Republicans who voted to impeach Mr Trump after his supporters attacked the US Capitol building in January last year have been targeted in a scorched-earth campaign of revenge.

So far, four have retired, and three have been defeated by his chosen candidates in primary ballots in the states of Washington, Michigan and South Carolina.

Only two have successfully maintained their places on the Republican ticket for re-election.

Seventy per cent of voters in Wyoming cast their ballots for Donald Trump in 2020.

And polls have consistently shown Ms Hageman – who has stated that she believes that election was “rigged” – leading in Wyoming by a large margin.

At the state’s junior rodeo finals, held in the city of Casper – Naot Shoes Womens one of the Trumpiest parts of a deeply Trumpy state – the cowboy traditions are proudly on display.

The gate clanks open and the steers charge into the arena, with children as young as five or six clinging on as tight as they can.

It’s wild, it appears more than a little dangerous, and for some it’s over pretty quick, landing them hard in the mud.

A fitting metaphor, perhaps, for what might happen to Liz Cheney – once seen as a rising star with a deep-red Republican pedigree as the daughter of the former Vice-President Dick Cheney.

“For the most part, the state of Wyoming is very big Trump supporters,” the Rodeo President, Chad Westbrook, tells me from beneath his 10-gallon hat.

“When she goes against the masses, it doesn’t work good for us,” he added. “We really liked Dick Cheney, you know, but she’s gone too far.”

On the other side of the state in the town of Jackson – a small island of wealthy, urban Democratic support that sticks out like a sore thumb in a sea of red, rural Republicanism – Mike Koshmrl is a local politics reporter for the online publication Wyofile.com.

He used to be on the environment beat – charting Wyoming’s conservation efforts and ecological challenges in a landscape of stunning natural beauty that stretches from the Rocky Mountains to the prairies in the east.

Now it’s a different type of landscape he charts, one just as scarred by fault lines and fissures.

“You know, the widespread belief that the 2020 election was stolen from Donald Trump in Wyoming is very concerning to me as a journalist, and all I can do is report people’s beliefs and report the truth,” he said.

“They’re not bad people. It is just a heartfelt belief that they have and other than that, they’re just ordinary folks here in Wyoming.”

But Donald Trump’s power has been to harness the concerns of ordinary folks and weave them into extraordinary, seismic political effect, very much in evidence in Wyoming.

Liz Cheney’s famous father, once a hate figure of the American left, now finds himself something of an anti-Trump fellow traveller.

“There’s never been an individual who is a greater threat to our republic than Donald Trump,” Dick Cheney said, also wearing the obligatory Wyoming 10-gallon hat, in a campaign advert for his daughter.

But if the polls are to be believed, it’s unlikely to shift the dial by much.

Outside one polling booth, in a charming wooden schoolroom overshadowed by the stunning Teton Mountains, Democratic voters have been answering Liz Cheney’s call to switch their registration to Republican in order the lend her their support –Propet Sneakers  itself a sign of how poorly she rates her chances.

“I’ve never agreed with one thing Liz Cheney has ever said, but I respected how she fought for democracy,” one such voter, a middle-aged woman, told me.

“I’m a Democrat and I came out and voted for Liz Cheney because she’s standing up for truth and that’s what we need in this country,” another man of similar age agreed.

In the suburbs of the state capital of Cheyenne, a group of Republicans were knocking on doors in a show of last-minute support for Liz Cheney – something they clearly accepted was an uphill battle.

But one worth fighting, they insisted. Evan Wagner had driven 17 hours from Austin, Texas.

“I think when you have Republicans, former Republicans, Democrats, independents, a socialist, knocking on doors for Liz Cheney of all people, you have to look at why,” he said, holding his dog Hiko in his arms.

“And I think the reason is she’s standing for principle, she’s saying I don’t care if I lose my job, I’m going to do the right thing.”

Wyoming primary elections do not normally attract much media attention.

But outside the polling booth closest to Liz Cheney’s home on the outskirts of Jackson, a scrum of reporters and camera crews has gathered, in the hope of catching her turning up to cast her ballot.

It may well be a vote in vain.

But those concerned about the shifting plates of US politics are watching closely. If she loses as predicted, it is the margin of the result that will be telling.

A test – not just for party but for country too – of how much the legacy of Donald Trump and his election denying narrative continue to loom over this landscape.

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