According to The New York Times, Liz Cheney has been out and about in Wyoming, "showing up everywhere in the state, from chicken dinners to cattle growers’ meetings, sometimes with her parents in tow," and has thus "made it clear that she wants to run for the Senate seat now held by Michael B. Enzi," the Republican currently representing Wyoming. How close is Cheney to actually putting her trial balloon in the air? That's irrelevant now, as Enzi has gone and launched it on her behalf. As The Times reports:
In an interview last week after a town hall-style meeting at the county fairgrounds here, a few feet from a plaque marking the site of Mr. Cheney’s first political speech, Mr. Enzi revealed that Ms. Cheney told him this year that she was thinking about challenging him in 2014.
“She called me and said that she’s looking at it,” he said.
And did Ms. Cheney ask Mr. Enzi, now in his third term, if he was planning to run again?
“No,” Mr. Enzi said.
Shades of Lautenberg v. Booker, basically. And in lieu of a forthcoming profile piece depicting Enzi as the old vet who's not ready to go gently into a Cheyenne sunset, The Times assures readers that Cheney's self-interjection is threatening to tear the Wyoming GOP asunder:
Mr. Enzi, 69, says he is not ready to retire, and many Republicans say he has done nothing to deserve being turned out.
It would bring about “the destruction of the Republican Party of Wyoming if she decides to run and he runs, too,” Alan K. Simpson, a former Republican senator from the state, said in an interview last week. “It’s a disaster -- a divisive, ugly situation -- and all it does is open the door for the Democrats for 20 years.”
Jim Geraghty contends against this notion, insisting that "that most conservative bloggers believe that the state and national GOP, the nation, conservatism, and the laws of time and space can indeed survive a Cheney senatorial bid," and that in fact "they almost seem to welcome it." Of course, a handful of "conservative bloggers" is not exactly the same thing as "the Wyoming GOP establishment." But I guess we can note that there are some conservatives not formally connected with the state of Wyoming (including one that admits, "I know little about [Enzi]") who are nominally not averse to a Cheney Senate bid. (The primary virtue of a Cheney candidacy, it seems, is the extent to which it would troll Democrats -- who would normally not be interested in the GOP's Senate candidate from Wyoming.)
You'd be hard-pressed to find a reason for Wyoming Republicans to be particularly irate with Enzi. Back during the run-up to the passage of the Affordable Care Act, Enzi was one of the so-called "Gang Of Six" and a believed-to-be-gettable GOP vote for health care reform. For that, he took some heat during the Town Hall Summer of 2009 -- but as Ryan Grim reported, he used those meetings with constituents to make it clear that he had no intention, in the end, of doing anything other than blocking the legislation's passage.
Whether Cheney is serious about putting her hat into the ring or not, it should be painfully clear that if you have designs on being a GOP Senator from Wyoming, politely waiting one's turn may not be the way to go. Besides, as The Times reports, the role of "person politely waiting for Enzi to one day retire" is already being played by somebody:
In a local TV interview last month, Representative Cynthia M. Lummis, the state’s at-large Republican congresswoman, said pointedly that she would support Mr. Enzi if he ran again. And in a message many interpreted as a warning to Ms. Cheney, Ms. Lummis said she would run for the Senate if Mr. Enzi retired.
That message was echoed by Republicans at Mr. Enzi’s town hall sessions. The mere mention of Ms. Cheney to a woman after an event in Newcastle brought forth disapproving references to an article published a few days earlier in a Casper newspaper about a political organization based in California promoting her candidacy for Senate.
The aforementioned article, published by the Casper Star-Tribune, broke the news that a "California-based political action committee" had launched a "national petition drive" to draft Cheney as a Senate candidate. But as Joan Barron reported, a Cheney spokesperson said that the would-be candidate "doesn't know the group and did not sanction the petition." Barron went on to report that reactions from Wyoming residents were "mixed," and at least one GOP activist in the state felt compelled to warn against making donations to the group behind the petition drive, One Nation, citing concerns that the group's Federal Election Commission filings showed that "too few dollars" received by the group "found their way into the campaign coffers of Republican candidates."
Would a Cheney candidacy, or a divided and battered Wyoming GOP, offer Democrats an opportunity? The American Conservative's Daniel Larison does some real-keeping: "Democrats haven’t won a Senate race in Wyoming in over 50 years, and Enzi won reelection by 50 points in 2008. Even if a primary fight left Enzi bruised, there is no real danger that he would lose to Cheney, and even less of a chance that a Democrat would defeat him in the general election."
And Larison, by the way, is not one of those conservative bloggers who is bullish on a Cheney run: "Indeed, if it weren’t for her father and her name, no one would be taking the slightest interest in this story."
At any rate, the guy who seems particularly interested in the story of how Mike Enzi is being challenged by Liz Cheney is Mike Enzi.
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