Liz Cheney run for Wyoming Senate seat: Is she a lock to win?

Liz Cheney, daughter of the former vice president, is launching a Senate candidacy. But Michael Enzi, a Republican, already occupies the seat she wants.

Cliff Owen/AP/File
Liz Cheney addresses the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, Feb. 18, 2010. Cheney announced Tuesday, July 16, 2013, she will run against Wyoming's senior senator Mike Enzi in next year's Republican primary.

Surprise – Liz Cheney is going to run for a Senate seat in Wyoming next year. That’s where the Cheney family has roots, since dad Dick Cheney went to school there and was Wyoming’s lone representative before he became George W. Bush’s vice president.

But it’s not like Cheney the daughter has spent years building a network in the state and saluting the crowd at Cheyenne’s iconic Frontier Days. She just bought a house there last year after spending much of her recent life in the non-cowboy country of northern Virginia.

Plus, a Republican already occupies the seat Ms. Cheney wants, Sen. Michael Enzi. He’s in his third term and is Wyoming to the core: He grew up in Thermopolis and is a former mayor of Gillette.

So does Cheney have a chance to knock off Senator Enzi in the GOP primary?

Yes. Yes, she does. At this point, she might even be the favorite.

“Cheney represents a major problem for Enzi,” judge Washington Post political analysts Chris Cillizza and Sean Sullivan.

Money is one reason. She’ll be able to raise all she needs to run in a thinly populated state where advertising is cheap. Her cash may come from out of state, because of the Cheney family’s national connections, but Enzi just won’t even be in the same league in terms of war chests. He’s clearly unprepared for a primary challenge, as at this point he’s got under $500,000 in his political accounts.

Then there’s the Cheney name. Enzi is famous for Wyoming, so the advantage here isn’t as clear as it seems from outside the state. But Mr. Cheney is still remembered by a significant portion of Wyoming voters as an alumnus, someone who rose from Casper to the highest level of US politics.

That counts for something.

Plus, it appears that Ms. Cheney will try to define Enzi as a go-along, someone who’s been content to work with party leadership and (gasp!) Democrats over the years. It remains to be seen how that plays in Wyoming as a whole, but it’s sure to get lots of attention and support from the tea party wing of the GOP and others who think the party’s problem is that it does not fight hard enough.

“Mike Enzi is a fine Republican, but he is not putting points on the board for conservatives.... We need less rudderless Republicans who shuffle around at the direction of their leadership and lobbyist friends,” conservative pundit Erick Erickson wrote Tuesday at RedState.

Of course, Cheney will have to handle the carpetbagger issue if she’s going to win. Enzi probably will try to define her as someone who’s running only because of personal ambition. It’s not like Enzi is a Northeastern moderate, like New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R). He’s already one of the most conservative senators.

Enzi’s best course of action may be to charge that Cheney is “too extreme” for Wyoming. She’s embraced her father’s neoconservative foreign-policy views, which included advocacy for the Iraq war and other interventionist actions. She’s charged that President Obama is “working to preemptively disarm America.”

According to Enzi, she broke her word when she entered the Senate race.

“She said that if I ran she wasn’t going to run, but obviously that isn’t correct,” Enzi said Tuesday.

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