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Liz Cheney Senate bid off to a rocky start

The fishing license snafu refuses to die, as Liz Cheney attacks the newspaper and the editor who first wrote about it. Polls show her trailing GOP incumbent Sen. Mike Enzi, whom she hopes to oust in a primary next year.

By Staff writer / September 5, 2013

US Senate candidate Liz Cheney speaks with voters during a Republican and Tea Party gathering in Emblem, Wyoming August 24, 2013. Cheney, the eldest daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, received a mostly warm welcome from some 300 conservative Wyoming voters in August despite having committed a political gaffe by mistakenly buying the wrong fishing license.

Ruffin Prevost/Reuters

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Liz Cheney’s bid to win a US Senate seat from Wyoming in 2014 does not appear to be off to a smooth start.

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Washington Editor

Peter Grier is The Christian Science Monitor's Washington editor. In this capacity, he helps direct coverage for the paper on most news events in the nation's capital.

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Ms. Cheney, daughter of ex-Vice President Dick Cheney, announced in July that she’s mounting a primary challenge to incumbent GOP Sen. Mike Enzi. Senator Enzi is pretty conservative – Wyoming is a pretty conservative state – but Cheney is positioning herself as the more conservative, more energetic Republican alternative.

You can see this on her website homepage, which pushes her as a “strong voice for Wyoming” (so Enzi isn’t one?) and prominently features an endorsement from Rush Limbaugh.

“We need about 95 more of you,” El Rushbo says of Cheney.

Cheney’s problem is that she’s hitting speed bumps of her own making. Or something like that.

Take the fishing license snafu. In August, the Wyoming Star-Tribune revealed that Cheney had improperly received a state resident fishing license. To be eligible for the cheaper resident license rate, an applicant must have lived in the Cowboy State for a year. At the time, Cheney had been a Wyoming resident for 72 days. Her application said she’d lived there for a decade.

Cheney said the clerk who took her application must have made a mistake.

Fast forward to this week. Cheney’s hometown paper, the Jackson Hole News&Guide, recently wrote that Cheney posted a $220 bond for the “high misdemeanor” of swearing a false oath to obtain that troublesome license.

Cheney was not pleased. Speaking Wednesday to a meeting of Jackson tea party backers, she blamed the News&Guide editor by name, said “newspapers are dying, and that’s not a bad thing,” and urged supporters to avoid news accounts and to spread the word about her candidacy by themselves.

She has followed this up with a Facebook post rallying supporters against the “establishment mainstream media.”

We get that she’s not happy with her coverage. And on Facebook she did commend some “hardworking” Wyoming reporters. But by going Vesuvius on the state outlets that have covered Licensegate, she is taking on other Wyoming journalists who will be covering her every move for months to come. Rachel Maddow they’re not.

Plus, she’s keeping the fishing license story alive. It might have been better for her to downplay it as a paperwork error of unknown origin and move on.

Then there’s the way she riled her own sister.

On Friday Cheney issued a statement saying she is “not pro-gay marriage.” She needed to announce this publicly, she said, because the Enzi campaign was conducting a “push poll” that was asking voters if they were aware Liz Cheney “aggressively promotes gay marriage.”

Cheney’s sister, Mary, is gay, and married her partner in 2012. Dick Cheney has said he supports same-sex marriage. Because Wyoming is a conservative state, Liz Cheney must have known she was going to have deal with this issue in some manner. But her abrupt statement did not sit well with Mary, who posted on Facebook that she loves Liz but that she’s “dead wrong” on gay marriage.

Perhaps worse for Cheney, Enzi denied the “push poll” charge, and the National Republican Senatorial Committee, which is supporting Enzi, took a swing at her.

“With all due respect, it looks like Liz Cheney is fishing without a license again,” said NRSC press secretary Brook Hougesen.

Cheney has months to overcome these stumbles, of course. The 2014 primary campaign has barely started. She’ll have lots of money and name recognition in a state that still reveres her dad.

But early polls aren’t good. A July 23 survey from Democratic-leaning Public Policy Polling put her behind Enzi, 54 percent to 26 percent. Half of those polled said they did not believe Cheney to be a Wyomingite.

A July 18 poll from GOP-leaning Harper Polling found similar results, with Enzi in the lead by 55 percent to 21 percent.

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