In any other context, it’d be a shocking fall from grace: a once-ascendant, Fox News celebrity congresswoman, who made leadership in her second year in office, is ousted by a political neophyte who’d once campaigned to get her incumbent opponent elected to the Senate.
But there’s nothing shocking about Rep. Liz Cheney’s (R-WY) primary defeat to Trump-endorsed lawyer Harriet Hageman. Cheney sealed her fate months ago, when she chose to direct all of her political energies towards exposing former President Donald Trump’s misdeeds and shaming her fellow Republicans for propping him up.
NBC and CNN called her race a little over an hour after polls closed.
“Our work is far from over,” Cheney told supporters at her watch party.
“Two years ago I won this primary with 73% of the vote,” she continued. “I could’ve done so again. The path was clear. But it would’ve required that I went along with President Trump’s lie about the 2020 election.”
Her profile — and the Republican ire it incurred — only grew with her leadership of the Jan. 6 committee. In a series of highly polished, televised hearings, Cheney narrated the committee’s revelations about Trump’s culpability before and during the insurrection.
She is candid about her intent: “I will do everything I can to ensure that the former president never again gets anywhere near the Oval Office,” she told reporters last year.
It’s a position that has won over Democrats who spent most of their political lives feeling skeptical (at best) toward the Cheney family. But it’s been less well received in Cheney’s home state, which cast its votes for Trump by nearly 70 percent in the 2020 presidential election — embracing the former President by greater margins than any other state in the union.
Recent polling showed Hageman with a very comfortable lead.
Cheney’s recent actions have reflected the long-shot status of her reelection: she’s been spending a lot of time in Washington D.C., and only holding private events due to security threats.
Still, her team didn’t entirely give up on the Sisyphean task that would be getting her elected amid such headwinds. They sent out literature encouraging Wyoming Democrats to switch parties and support Cheney in her primary. To some extent, it worked — between Jan. 1 and Aug. 1, Republicans gained 11,000 new registered voters and Democrats lost 6,000. The number of unaffiliated voters dropped too.
But the crossover support wasn’t enough in ruby red Wyoming.
Cheney, whose political career started the same night as Trump’s in 2016, has been ousted. Speculation about a 2024 presidential run has already begun, though pro-Cheney forces are candid that her candidacy would serve more as a spoiler for a Trump redux than an effort with any real chance.
Hageman, who has taken the inverse political journey to Cheney’s, will take over the state’s at-large seat instead.
Hageman was once part of the Republican resistance to Trump’s 2016 ascendancy, thinking up schemes to strip him of his nomination during the party’s convention and calling him “racist and xenophobic.” Before that, she was close enough to Cheney to serve as adviser to her unsuccessful 2014 Senate campaign.
But she’s since performed the same choreography as many once anti-Trump Republicans who prize extending their political careers, becoming a full fledged MAGA acolyte and parroting the former President’s lies about the 2020 election being stolen.
While Cheney decided that sounding the alarm about the Trump threat was worth losing her office, Hageman made the inverse calculation — and was rewarded with the almighty Trump endorsement and a statewide victory.