Not long ago, Liz Cheney’s Republican primary election was seen as the most interesting and highly anticipated election of the 2022 midterm election cycle. That was back when there were multiple candidates, Cheney was the only one with money, and she had a fighting chance.
But the dynamics changed. Trump backed a candidate and it became a two-person contest. Then Cheney basically gave up trying to run for reelection. Half of the $15 million she raised for the contest went unspent, hoarded for future purposes.
After the voting ended in Wyoming on Tuesday night, Cheney not only lost, but lost by 37 points to Trump-backed Harriet Hageman, an attorney and prominent Republican activist. (Yes, this is the same Hagemen who helped lead the anti-Trump movement in 2016, but that is apparently a thing of the past.)
Hageman won a solid victory despite raising only $4.4 million. The reason why Cheney was able to raise $15 million is obvious: Over the course of the past year, she became every Democrat’s favorite Republican. In her defeat, she is the new leader of the Never-Trump Republican branch, the new Lincoln Project, and in fact, more focused on Trump than even the Democratic National Committee.
For Cheney, this has been the political play all along.
In Sun Tzu’s famous “The Art of War” he talks about the principle of the “art of indirection.” The idea is that you make people and your opponent think you are doing one thing in order to enable you to do your actual goal.
In Cheney’s case, once she decided to break fully with Trump and was kicked out of leadership, it was clear her future in the House was shaky. But run again for the House she did. Doing so created a vehicle for her to raise gobs of money to seed whatever came next. She then used her role on the Jan. 6 House committee, though genuine, to goose up those donations.
Indeed, within hours of losing on Tuesday, Cheney changed up her reelection committee —which had $7 million at the end of July — to become a political action committee called “The Great Task,” a move first reported by Punchbowl News.
“This primary election is over, but now the real work begins,” Cheney foreshadowed in her concession speech Tuesday night.
Where is this all headed? That has been actually telegraphed for some time. Cheney will be among those running for president in 2024. She has traveled to the typical places Republicans go as they prepare a run for president — among them, a speech at the Reagan presidential library and trips to New Hampshire.
When she does run, she likely won’t have a chance of winning the Republican nomination. But here is the point: She can work to prevent Trump from being the nominee.
Whether on a debate stage or through her clever daily attacks, all Cheney needs to do is bring down Trump enough to allow someone else to win the nomination. After all, if Trump does run and is denied the nomination for president, he would be, in effect, politically dead.
Up until this point, no politician other than Joe Biden can say they have defeated Trump. Cheney is gearing up to be the second.