Perhaps no midterm primary is garnering as much attention as Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney’s, whose race next week could be the most high-profile test yet of voter reaction – or lack thereof – to a Republican serving on the House Jan. 6 committee and whether anti-Trump conservatives have a path forward within their own party.
On Tuesday, residents of the nation’s smallest state will deliver their verdict. Cheney’s chances of reelection are currently slim: According to FiveThirtyEight, her opponent, Wyoming attorney Harriet Hageman, has beaten her in previous head-to-head polling match-ups, aided in part by a blessing from former President Donald Trump. Cheney released an ad on Thursday that encapsulated her closing argument: the “big lie” about the 2020 election – and Trump’s embrace of it – is destroying democracy.
It will be clear soon whether that pitch persuades enough of her party’s base. However, recent interviews with a dozen Wyoming voters reveal that they are preoccupied with other issues.
Republicans in the state Trump won by 70 points told ABC News that they are growing estranged from their three-term congresswoman. While they are dissatisfied with Cheney’s prominent position on the Jan. 6 committee, which she co-chairs, and her tough stance against Trump’s baseless election attacks, Wyoming residents also believe she no longer represents them politically.
Cheney has been campaigning in Wyoming, as evidenced by photos shared on social media by her campaign, though she isn’t holding large-scale, big-tent events like her opponent. According to Wyoming state Rep. Landon Brown, a Cheney surrogate, this is due to concerns for her safety after becoming one of the country’s most visible anti-Trump Republicans.
Brown, like Cheney, said the race is about the Republican Party’s existential choice: embracing Trump’s never-ending insistence that the last presidential election was stolen from him – or moving on.
Cheney told ABC News’ Jonathan Karl last month that her work highlighting Trump’s attacks on elections was more important than her election. But she stated at the time that she was working hard to win. That’s where Democrats could come in, in an unusual last-minute push to cross party lines in order to save an anti-Trump lawmaker who had voted with Trump more than 90% of the time.
In Wyoming, voters can change their party affiliation no later than 14 days before the primary election, or at polling places on the day of the primary or general election. Voters can also change their party affiliations for future elections under state law.
As a result, Wyoming Democrats could theoretically vote as Republicans in Tuesday’s primary. Nonetheless, an analysis by FiveThirtyEight found that they are unlikely to make up the deficit with Republicans, given the state’s larger conservative population: The Republican Party has 70% of the vote in the state.
And, in every midterm election over the last decade, more than 80% of primary votes have gone to Republican candidates, implying that even those who haven’t declared their party affiliation are likely to vote red.
Several Wyoming Democrats who defected from their own party and temporarily registered as Republicans told ABC News that their decision was not taken lightly.
The Cheney campaign website directs voters interested in crossing the aisle to the county clerk’s office, though the Cheney campaign denies this.
She claimed to have received a slew of mailers urging her to make the switch. Cheney yard signs can be found all over her neighborhood, which she claims is mostly made up of lifelong liberals.
The Cheney campaign insists that they are not targeting Democrats, but they will accept any support.
A group called Wyomingites Defending Freedom And Democracy is behind much of the party-switching push, and it even cut pro-Cheney ads with Democratic Reps earlier this week. Dean Phillips of Minnesota and Tom Malinowski of New Jersey.
Their efforts may have begun to bear fruit: According to state election data, at least a few thousand registered Democrats appear to have changed their registration in the last month.