Liz Cheney to Form New Anti-Trump Group, Ponders Presidential Bid

From a Wall Street Journal story by Natalie Andrews and John McCormick headlined “Liz Cheney to Form New Anti-Trump Group, Ponders Presidential Bid”:

Rep. Liz Cheney said Wednesday she is contemplating a 2024 presidential bid as part of her stated mission to try to block former President Donald Trump from ever winning the White House again, a possibility that has both major political parties awaiting her next move.

“It’s something that I’m thinking about,” she said on NBC.

The three-term incumbent and daughter of a former Republican vice president was defeated in her Wyoming GOP primary Tuesday by Harriet Hageman, a water and natural-resources attorney endorsed by Mr. Trump. Ms. Hageman campaigned on a message that Ms. Cheney had become too critical of Mr. Trump, a fellow Republican, and had ignored the interests of her constituents.

Ms. Cheney said on NBC that she is focused on moving the Republican Party “back to a place where we’re embracing the values and the principles on which it was founded.” While keeping Mr. Trump from getting the 2024 GOP presidential nomination is a goal shared by other Republicans, no one has managed to significantly loosen his grip on the party and polls show his base remains animated and loyal to him.

Though Ms. Cheney’s chances of winning the GOP presidential nomination would be slim—she just lost a Republican primary in one of the reddest states in the country—some GOP strategists said she could cause headaches for Mr. Trump as his chief antagonist, if he decides to make another presidential run, which he is considering.

“Cheney’s laser focus on Trump and ability to command media attention means she could be a significant factor in 2024,” said GOP consultant Alex Conant, who led communications for Sen. Marco Rubio’s 2016 presidential campaign and served as a spokesman in the second Bush White House. “She won’t be the nominee, but she’ll be a factor, especially if she can qualify for the primary debates. Nobody wanted to challenge Trump in 2015. Now we’ll have a candidate doing nothing but constantly challenging him.”

Mr. Trump has suggested for months that he is seriously contemplating a third White House campaign, yet that hasn’t kept other Republicans from laying the groundwork for their own potential 2024 bids. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has shown the most traction so far within the possible GOP field of delivering a real challenge to Mr. Trump.

Hours after her loss, Ms. Cheney filed with the Federal Election Commission to transfer remaining cash from her federal campaign account to a new political-action committee. At the end of July, she had more than $7 million cash on hand, according to FEC filings. Her leadership PAC is called “The Great Task,” a reference to Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, in which he said the task was to save the union and the tradition of representative democracy in the U.S.

Ms. Cheney will continue to serve until January 2023, when the new Congress convenes, and as the vice chair of the special House committee investigating events leading up to and during the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the Capitol and Mr. Trump’s role in them. The assault came as Congress was certifying President Joe Biden’s victory over the former president.

In the coming weeks, Ms. Cheney is expected to launch a political organization to continue her work. She is expected to manage it independently and not partner with any outside groups that are also working to block a successful presidential bid by Mr. Trump.

She should have no trouble raising the money to finance her mission, experts say. Ms. Cheney has been a draw for donors from the party’s traditional conservative base and she has been boosted by allies of her father, former Vice President Dick Cheney. Former President George W. Bush hosted a fundraiser for her in September.

So many people wanted to attend a March fundraiser for Ms. Cheney headlined by Sen. Mitt Romney (R., Utah) that the organizer, Bobbie Kilberg, a top GOP fundraiser, had to cut off the number of attendees and look into getting a bigger tent than one she used at an event for Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin, who was elected last year.

“I will continue to support her financially to enable her to ensure that Donald Trump is not the next president and to enable her to ensure that there are a number of really good options,” Ms. Kilberg said.

Of the total that Ms. Cheney raised this cycle, Ms. Kilberg said that more than $500,000 came from the event she held for her in March. “Will she have trouble raising funds? Absolutely not. She’ll have plenty of money.”

Republicans who oppose Mr. Trump have created various groups to fund or back outside candidates, including Ms. Cheney’s GOP colleague on the Jan. 6 investigative committee. Rep. Adam Kinzinger(R., Ill.), who is retiring from Congress, has recruited Democrats and independents to register as Republicans to defeat pro-Trump candidates in GOP primaries.

Asked how Ms. Cheney would navigate among those groups, Gunner Ramer, political director for the Republican Accountability PAC, which seeks to defeat Republicans who question the 2020 election results, said he would rather see Ms. Cheney run for the GOP nomination.

“This is about Liz Cheney fighting for the soul of the Republican Party,” he said, noting it would be an uphill battle. “We do focus groups with Republican voters all the time and there is still an appetite for Trump to run in 2024, or someone like him in 2024.”

If Ms. Cheney were to run as a Republican, she would likely face some strong headwinds in Iowa, a state that has shown significant loyalty to Mr. Trump and where the party is expected to start its 2024 nomination race.

Carmine Boal, a GOP activist in Iowa who is a former state representative, expressed skepticism of Ms. Cheney’s prospects as a potential GOP presidential candidate in her state. “She would be coolly received here because she’s been such an antagonist,” she said.

Bob Vander Plaats, president of Family Leader, a Christian conservative group based in Iowa, said Mr. Trump should think soberly about whether he even wants to get into the 2024 race knowing his presence might be more likely to encourage Ms. Cheney to run as an independent. Mr. Vander Plaats said that could threaten the GOP’s prospects the way the businessman Ross Perot did in a 1992 election that ended in victory for Democrat Bill Clinton.

“There is a Ross Perot moment brewing, and if it comes to fruition, Donald Trump will lose the 2024 presidential election,” Mr. Vander Plaats said. “Should Trump choose to run, he will be running uphill against the Democratic nominee and an independent torpedo named Liz Cheney.”

GOP pollster Frank Luntz, who worked on Mr. Perot’s campaign as a director of research, said an independent Cheney candidacy would likely take more votes from Mr. Biden than Mr. Trump, assuming they were the Democratic and Republican nominees.

“It would hurt Biden more,” said Mr. Luntz, noting that many Democrats view her as a hero figure for her challenges to Mr. Trump. “Liz Cheney would draw more Democratic votes.”

Cynthia Vance, a Sotheby’s realtor in Arlington, Va. gave $1,000 to Ms. Cheney’s campaign, and said she would return to the GOP if Ms. Cheney ran for president.

“I was a Republican, I’m now a Democrat and as long as the Republicans support Donald Trump, I’ll remain a Democrat,” she said. “If Liz Cheney ran for president, I would vote Republican.”

Mr. Luntz said the potential of a Cheney candidacy comes at a time of significant upheaval within the U.S. electorate, with some voters who have traditionally been associated with one party switching sides.

“Hispanic voters that have voted Democratic all their life are now looking at voting Republican,” he said. “Middle-aged suburban white women who had been Republican have begun to return again to the Democrats because of abortion.”

In a recent poll he conducted, Mr. Luntz said 63% of Americans believe the two major parties have failed enough that a third party is needed. “Still,” he said, “a third-party campaign for president is still difficult and the system is set up to reward the two major parties and punish anybody else.”

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