Liz Cheney drops US Senate bid. What happened?

Liz Cheney ends her primary election challenge to Sen. Mike Enzi (R) of Wyoming, citing 'health issues' in her immediate family. Her US Senate bid had not gained much traction.

Ruffin Prevost/Reuters/File
Senate candidate Liz Cheney speaks with voters during a Republican and Tea Party gathering in Emblem, Wyoming, August 24, 2013.

Liz Cheney has announced she is ending her US Senate bid in Wyoming because of unspecified “serious health issues” in her immediate family.

“Under the circumstances, I have decided to discontinue my campaign,” said Ms. Cheney, daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, in a prepared statement issued Monday morning.

Cheney and husband, Phil Perry, have five children. Although she did not say so, the implication is that the health issue in question may involve one of her kids.

It’s an unfortunate ending to a campaign that seemed misbegotten from the beginning. Cheney never made much headway in her attempt to unseat Wyoming’s incumbent Republican Sen. Mike Enzi.

For one thing, she had a hard time establishing exactly why Cowboy State voters should ditch Senator Enzi for her. She was not really a tea-party conservative running to Enzi’s right, as are many of the primary challengers to GOP incumbents. She was certainly not a moderate running to his left.

Her pitch seemed to be that she was just like Enzi, only younger, more energetic, and a mom. One of her campaign spots featured her three daughters talking about their family history in the state, including their grandpa’s service as George W. Bush VP, and how proud they were of their mom.

But critics called her a carpetbagger from the get-go. While the Cheney family has deep roots in Wyoming, she spent most of her adult life in northern Virginia and moved to the state just before setting up her Senate bid. Plus, her Wyoming home was an expensive spread in Jackson, the well-off resort town that’s a world away from the rolling grasslands down near the Nebraska border. It’s as if she moved to Nantucket to run for a Massachusetts seat.

The capper may have been a very public feud over gay marriage with her sister, Mary, who is gay, married, and has kids of her own.

After Liz announced on national TV that she remained opposed to gay marriage, Mary’s spouse slammed her in a Facebook post, saying Liz’s words were “offensive to say the least.” Mary Cheney then chimed in on her own page, saying her sister was “on the wrong side of history.”

Liz Cheney’s electoral problem here was that she was caught between her own family and Wyoming’s conservative lean. A pro-Enzi "super PAC," the American Principles Fund, broadcast ads that in essence charged Cheney with being soft on gay marriage. So it would have been difficult for her to ignore or finesse the issue.

Given this tangle, polls showed Wyoming voters weren’t ready to ditch Enzi for a shiny new Cheney. Surveys showed she was 20 to 30 percentage points down, and not gaining.

As Slate political blogger Dave Weigel notes Monday, if Cheney had stayed in northern Virginia, she’d be well-positioned to run for the House seat of retiring GOP Rep. Frank Wolf.

“Instead, by managing to turn a 33-point poll deficit into a 51-point poll deficit simply by being herself, she’s leaving behind nothing but a rich vein of liberal schadenfreude,” Mr. Weigel writes.

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