WASHINGTON — Liz Cheney said Monday she was withdrawing from the Wyoming Republican Senate primary, abruptly ending her unsteady challenge to the incumbent, Michael B. Enzi.
“Serious health issues have recently arisen in our family, and under the circumstances, I have decided to discontinue my campaign,” Cheney said in a statement. “My children and their futures were the motivation for our campaign, and their health and well-being will always be my overriding priority.”
She added, “Though this campaign stops today, my commitment to keep fighting with you and your families for the fundamental values that have made this nation and Wyoming great will never stop.”
Cheney wrote in an e-mail that she would not say anything more about the nature of the health issue Monday.
Since Cheney, 47, the elder daughter of former vice president Dick Cheney, declared her candidacy in July against Enzi — a well-liked, three-term Senate veteran — she not only never gained traction but also caused deep rifts among longtime friends and even within her family.
Liz Cheney spoke Monday with former senator Alan K. Simpson, a longtime friend of the Cheney family whose relationship became strained when he decided to back Enzi.
“She said it was a mom thing — ‘that I just need to be more involved with the family,’ ” Simpson said. “I told her I wanted this to heal up and she said, ‘We do, too.’ ”
The former senator said Liz Cheney was unable to gain ground against Enzi because he had helped so many people in the sparsely populated state in his nearly 18 years in office and because he was not vulnerable to an ideological challenge.
Liz Cheney’s allies moved quickly Monday to portray her exit from her first campaign as only an initial rough patch in a promising career.
Senator Rob Portman, Republican of Ohio, a family friend, e-mailed an unsolicited statement of support for Cheney, saying she has “a bright future in the Republican Party.”
“She will continue to be a leading voice on foreign policy, national security, and other areas of critical importance to our country,” Portman wrote.
But privately many Republican officials were relieved that a primary fought in part on the uncomfortable issue of same-sex marriage was over and hopeful that Cheney’s stumbles served as a cautionary tale for conservatives seeking to knock off incumbents.
Her task was always going to be difficult. B ut Liz Cheney never was able to focus much on her opponent, spending much of her five-month candidacy fending off distractions to her campaign.
She often had to defend charges that she was a carpetbagger, since she lived most of her life in Virginia.
In September, she declared her opposition to same-sex marriage and drew the ire of her younger sister, Mary, who is a lesbian.