On Tuesday, Republican Rep. Liz Cheney (Wyo.) lost her primary election to an opponent backed by President Trump, marking one of the last major victories in the former president’s campaign to purge the party of its critics.
Cheney, one of the few Republicans in the House to vote to impeach Trump last year for his role in the January 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol, has been relentless in her criticism of the former president, insisting right up until the end that he poses a threat to the rule of law and American democracy.
However, the results of her primary also provide insight into the direction of the Republican Party and the attitudes of its voters nearly two years after Trump was removed from office.
Take a look at these five key points from Cheney’s campaign.
Even now, Trump retains a firm hold on the Republican Party.
After Cheney’s defeat on Tuesday, Trump’s detractors had no reason to believe that regular party members were ready to go against the former president and forge their own course.
It also served as a stark reminder that Trump’s influence is as strong as ever, at least among Republicans in red states.
Even though he is physically far from the Oval Office, Trump has repeatedly shown that he can influence Republican Party voters to support his preferred candidates and to reject those he views as disloyal. But there are notable outliers; for instance, Georgia Governor Brian Kemp easily dispatched a primary challenger backed by Trump.
But there’s no denying that Trump is still a major player in the modern Republican Party, which bodes well for him as he mulls a run for president again in 2024.
Republicans who support impeachment are dwindling.
Almost all of the Republicans who voted to impeach Trump last year won’t be in the 118th Congress when it is sworn in next year.
Ten Republicans in the House voted to impeach the former president; four of them are not seeking reelection this year, and another four (including Cheney) have been defeated by opponents backed by Trump.
Only two Republicans, California’s David Valadao and New York’s Dan Newhouse, made it past the primary (R-Wash.).
With such a heavy Republican majority in his district, Newhouse seems like a sure bet to be reelected this year, while Valadao’s situation is much more precarious. He barely won a primary in June and is now running for a seat that became much more Democratic as a result of redistricting.
Because of the redistricting, he is now on the DCCC’s 2022 target list, which means he faces an uphill battle to return to Congress in the coming year.
In the event of his victory, he will still be a part of the Republican Conference in the House that looks to be the most enthusiastically pro-Trump group ever.
The GOP’s anti-Trump strategy can only go so far.
To those who had hoped that an anti-Trump Republican could unite a large enough coalition of voters to withstand Trump’s most vicious attacks, Cheney’s loss came as a crushing blow.
However, it served as a sobering reminder of how far such an approach can only go. The conservative base of the Republican Party abandoned Cheney after she delivered biting criticism of Trump and his false claim that the 2020 election was stolen.
However, she was unable to secure enough support from Democrats and independents despite her passionate speeches. While moderates may have admired her for standing up to the GOP’s most powerful figure, they may have found it difficult to support her because of her conservative record.
It wasn’t like Cheney didn’t try to sway Democratic voters to support her. Cheney may be battered, but she’s not beaten, as evidenced by the fact that her campaign began providing instructions via its website and mailers earlier this summer.
Cheney’s fate was apparent even before she admitted defeat.
She never made an effort to reconcile with Trump or convince his supporters that she was still on their side. Her final campaign ad featured her father, former Vice President Dick Cheney, bashing Trump.
Cheney was so convinced in her beliefs that she was unwilling to back down even after conceding defeat on Tuesday. She claimed she would have won her primary if she had sided with Trump after the 2020 election, but she was unwilling to do so.
Her concession speech was also notable because it may have hinted at her future plans. She said that she would do “whatever it takes” to prevent Trump from being elected president again, and she compared him to Abraham Lincoln, who also had to overcome election defeats before becoming president.
This may add fuel to the fire of speculation that Cheney is considering a run for president herself, as both the reference and her promise to continue her crusade against Trump and Trumpism indicate that she is not ready to leave the political spotlight just yet.
Trump’s appeal to voters as a whole is now the main topic of discussion.
Trump’s attempt to rid the Republican Party of his critics has been a dramatic saga, and the removal of Vice President Cheney marked a significant turning point. She was the only Republican House member who voted in favor of impeachment who had to contend with a primary election this year.
Now that the primaries are over, Trump can turn his attention to the general election in November, when all voters, not just Republicans, will cast a ballot on his endorsed candidates.
Hageman’s election to Congress is all but assured thanks to Wyoming’s strong Republican lean, but other candidates Trump has endorsed are in for a much tougher fight.
For instance, in Pennsylvania’s contentious Senate race, Democratic Lt. Gov. John Fetterman has a significant lead over celebrity doctor and Trump supporter Mehmet Oz.
Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.) is ahead in a tight race against former NFL star Herschel Walker, whom Trump endorsed early on.
It remains to be seen if Trump’s impact can be as significant in the general election as it was in the Republican primary.
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