Liz Cheney Prepares for Next Act in GOP Where Trump Holds Sway

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(Bloomberg) -- Republican Representative Liz Cheney said she wants to lead a charge to break Donald Trump’s hold on the GOP, setting up a new political action committee and saying she’s considering a run for president.

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After being trounced in Wyoming’s GOP primary Tuesday by Trump-backed conservative lawyer Harriet Hageman, Cheney said she would do “whatever it takes” to block the former president’s path back to the White House in 2024.

“I believe that Donald Trump continues to pose a very grave threat — a risk to our republic — and I think defeating him is going to require a broad and united front of Republicans, Democrats and independents and that’s what I intend to be a part of,” Cheney, 56, who has served three terms in Wyoming’s sole US House seat, said Wednesday on NBC’s “Today” program.

She said she’s “thinking about” a bid for the presidency and would be making a decision “in the coming months.”

Although several recent polls have indicated Trump’s support in the Republican Party is slipping, he remains a formidable presence and a substantial influence for GOP voters. The vast majority of the candidates Trump has endorsed since leaving office have won or advanced to the general election, and few Republican officeholders have been willing to publicly criticize the former president.

Cheney was the last of the 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump last year after the insurrection at the US Capitol to face voters and the fourth to lose a primary to a candidate he backed. Only two will make it to the general election and four decided to retire. Trump had aimed his vengeance on Cheney in particular for her prominent role in a House committee’s investigation into the insurrection.

In one counter-point, Republican Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski on Tuesday advanced to a general election race with Kelly Tshibaka, a former state official backed by Trump. Murkowski, one of seven GOP senators who voted to convict Trump at his impeachment trial, was the leading vote-getter in the state’s open primary. The top four candidates will be on the November ballot.

Another Trump favorite in Alaska, former Governor Sarah Palin, also advanced.

To advance her cause, Cheney has rebranded her campaign committee as a political action committee called “The Great Task,” a nod to President Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg address, which she also referenced in her concession speech on Tuesday.

The move allows Cheney to accept up to $5,000 from individuals per election, more than the $2,900 her campaign could receive. It would also give her resources to fund Trump’s opponents, amplify her opposition to the former president in television ads and fuel legal efforts.

But she’d be unable to use more than $5,000 of the money she raises or had leftover from her campaign should she decide to run for another office.

Her spokesperson, Jeremy Adler, said there was nothing to “preview” about Cheney’s next steps.

James King, a University of Wyoming political scientist, said he doesn’t know whether there’s a path for Cheney to jump into the 2024 GOP presidential nomination race.

Cheney’s policy positions match closely with the most conservative elements of the Republican Party. But he said, “The sin of not supporting former President Trump on issues related to the 2020 election might lead Trump supporters in the electorate to choose a conservative candidate who did support Trump.”

In addition to her new PAC, Cheney will have a public forum for her campaign against Trump as vice chair of the committee investigating the former president’s role in the Capitol insurrection until she leaves Congress in January.

Cheney was a rising Republican star until she stood up to Trump. After she voted to impeach him in the aftermath of the attack on the Capitol by a mob of his supporters, the political costs for Cheney’s defiance mounted. The Wyoming Republican Party voted to censure her and asked her to resign. Then she was removed as the third-ranking House Republican leader by her colleagues, who accused her of abandoning the party.

That culminated in her loss Tuesday to Hageman by a better than two-to-one margin.

Citing Lincoln, the Republican president who steered the US through the Civil War, Cheney said Tuesday night that no office was worth betraying the democratic principles the US was built on.

“Two years ago I won this primary with 73% of the vote. I could easily have done the same again,” she said. “But it would’ve required that I go along with President Trump’s lie about the 2020 election. It would’ve required that I enabled his ongoing efforts to unravel our democratic system and attack the foundations of our republic. That was a path I could not and would not take.”

In her speech Hageman said, “Wyoming has put the elites on notice -- we are no longer going to tolerate representatives who don’t represent us.”

Wyoming is a reliably Republican state, so the winner of the GOP primary is all but assured a general election victory.

Trump called Hageman’s victory a “complete rebuke” of the Jan. 6 committee and a “wonderful result for America” in a posting on his Truth Social website.

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