Liz Cheney: Another tea party run at a Republican senator?

Liz Cheney, daughter of the former vice president, is challenging Republican Senator Mike Enzi in Wyoming. To many in the party’s tea party wing, the Senate needs more rhetorical bomb-throwers like Ted Cruz.

By , Staff writer

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    Liz Cheney, daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, talks to the press on Wednesday, July 17, 2013, at the Parkway Plaza in Casper, Wyo. Cheney announced her intention to run against U.S. Sen. Mike Enzi the previous day.
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Liz Cheney’s ambush of US Sen. Mike Enzi (R) of Wyoming has its unique elements, starting with her ex-VP father Dick Cheney – her “best weapon,” according to Politico.com.

But Ms. Cheney’s challenging a long-time and very conservative Republican incumbent is part of a recent pattern within the GOP. Just ask ousted senators Bob Bennett of Utah and Dick Lugar of Indiana. To many in the party’s tea party-tinged wing, the US Senate needs more rhetorical bomb-throwers like freshman Sen. Ted Cruz from Texas.

“There are no indispensable men,” writes conservative blogger Eric Erickson, editor-in-chief of RedState.com.

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“Mike Enzi is a fine Republican, but he is not putting points on the board for conservatives. We need more like Ted Cruz and less like … well … Mike Enzi,” writes Erickson. “We need less rudderless Republicans who shuffle around at the direction of their leadership and lobbyist friends.”

Yet at this point, the path to victory in a party primary fight with Sen. Enzi appears steep and rocky for Cheney.

Quickly lining up behind Enzi were Wyoming’s other senator, John Barrasso, and the state's lone US Representative, Cynthia Lummis, as well as the National Republican Senatorial Committee led by Sen. Jerry Moran, (R) of Kansas.

Speaking on Bloomberg Television Friday night, Sen. John McCain endorsed Enzi as well.

“I’ll tell you, he’s one of these solid guys,” Mr. McCain said. “I know nothing that Mike Enzi would do that didn’t deserve re-election.”

More to the point, many Wyoming voters seem to have their doubts about Cheney’s run at Enzi as well.

In a mock primary election conducted by the Republican Harper Polling firm, Enzi wallops Cheney 55-21 percent. Enzi’s favorable/unfavorable rating (76-6) and his job approval rating (73-9) are a politician’s dream.

But there are warning signs for Enzi in the poll numbers as well.

Asked if he deserves reelection, just 48 percent say “yes”. Large minorities are unsure (24 percent) or say it’s time for someone new (28 percent).

A plurality (44 percent) say they “support the goals and ideals of the Tea Party,” and the same percentage describe themselves as “very conservative.”

Dick Cheney may be Darth Vader to many Americans (a jibe he seems proud of), but in Wyoming he’s revered.

“Disliked as Dick Cheney is nationally after his controversial tenure as vice president, he remains an esteemed figure in the state he represented three decades ago in the House of Representatives,” writes John Hohmann of Politico.

At the same time, James King, the chairman of the political science department at the University of Wyoming, tells Politico, “By now you’ve got a whole lot of voters who never had a chance to vote for Dick Cheney for congressman.”

“There’s some residual Cheney support, but I’m not sure it’s something that will drill deeply,” he said. “The challenge she has is that you don’t have an extremely vulnerable incumbent.”

But many political experts were surprised to see ex-Sen. Bob Bennett bumped off in Utah.

For now, Liz Cheney is working hard to fight off the carpet-bagger label.

She may have lived in Wyoming for a few years when she was a young girl, but she’s spent her adult and professional life in and around Washington. Only last year did she establish residency in what she now calls her home state.
 
 So far, Cheney has not gone after popular incumbent Enzi.

But on campaign stops this week, she did say, "Instead of cutting deals with the president's allies in Congress, we can be opposing them every step of the way." – essentially the point made by RedState’s Erickson.

As to the “carpet-bagger” label, Liz Cheney would never mention it but she has a successful model in the woman who moved to New York and won a US Senate seat: Hillary Rodham Clinton.

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