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The 3 prongs of Liz Cheney's campaign against Trump — will they work?

Rep. Liz Cheney gives a concession speech to supporters after losing her bid for reelection to a primary challenger endorsed by former President Trump.
Alex Wong
/
Getty Images
Rep. Liz Cheney gives a concession speech to supporters after losing her bid for reelection to a primary challenger endorsed by former President Trump.

Liz Cheney has her sights set on Donald Trump.

The Wyoming congresswoman may have lost her bid for reelection this past week, but she is making it her mission to ensure Trump is never president again.

"I believe that Donald Trump continues to pose a very grave threat and risk to our republic," Cheney said on NBC's Today show the day after her primary loss. "And I think that defeating him is going to require a broad and united front of Republicans, Democrats and independents, and that's what I intend to be a part of."

Cheney is taking a few steps to try and make that possible:

  • Forming a PAC: After her loss, she immediately formed a political action committee called The Great Task;
  • Continued Jan. 6 committee hearings: As the vice chair of the House Jan. 6 committee, she is continuing hearings this fall with the aim of continuing to expose Trump's conduct that day;
  • A potential run for president: Cheney says she's "thinking about" a run, even possibly an independent bid.
  • A political action committee

    Cheney has lots of money left over in her campaign — about $7 million, much of which came from Democrats, by the way. That's pretty ironic, considering Cheney's very conservative policy positions.

    Cheney has also spoken out against some Democratic entities that have controversially boosted election deniers during GOP primaries in hopes of helping Democrats' chances against them this November in competitive states and districts.

    Cheney can transfer all of that money to her newly formed PAC. It will allow her to travel and maybe even run some advertising opposing Trump. But it would be limited.

    The Jan. 6 committee

    Season 2 of the Jan. 6 committee hearings are expected to kick off some time in mid-September, and this is where Cheney has a key megaphone and may have her biggest effect on damaging Trump.

    The hearings so far have dented Trump's image, even with his base. Before the FBI search of his Florida home, Trump's ironclad grip on the GOP base appeared to be loosening. He was starting to be seen by many Republicans as too chaotic, and the base was starting to look elsewhere (i.e. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis).

    But, so far, the FBI search has reconsolidated the base around Trump, whose political identity is so strongly wrapped up in his own sense of victimhood.

    Enter: Cheney. She will again command the microphone on the Jan. 6 committee rostrum with her diligent and focused way.

    And with no primary left, she has only one focus.

    A presidential run

    Ahead of Rep. Liz Cheney's primary loss Tuesday, a sign stood on the side of a road in Casper, Wyo. in opposition to Cheney and in support of her primary opponent Harriet Hageman.
    Patrick T. Fallon / AFP via Getty Images
    /
    AFP via Getty Images
    Ahead of Rep. Liz Cheney's primary loss Tuesday, a sign stood on the side of a road in Casper, Wyo., in opposition to Cheney and in support of her primary opponent Harriet Hageman.

    This last point is flashy and has a lot of people weighing her odds.

    In reality, Cheney knows she has little-to-no chance of winning a GOP presidential primary. Not only did she lose her House primary by more than 30 points, but her approval with Republicans nationally has nosedived since she has taken her strong stance against Trump.

    The latest NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll, for example, showed Cheney with just a 13% favorability rating with her own party.

    But winning the election and becoming president herself is hardly the point. Cheney wants to wreak as much havoc for Trump — and all election deniers — as possible.

    She's good at making the argument and can take the case in a GOP primary to Republicans, who don't normally get that point of view from their preferred sources of information.

    If she runs, she will battle to be on a debate stage with Trump, but that's highly unlikely to happen because Trump controls the levers of power in the party right now. But she can do retail campaigning and will command lots of media attention.

    She's also open to an independent bid for president. Which way that could cut is less known. Again, she wouldn't win the White House, but if her candidacy is seen as likely to legitimately take votes away from Trump, it's something she would likely seriously consider.

    After Cheney's loss, Trump declared on his social media platform, "Now she can finally disappear into the depths of political oblivion."

    But that's hardly true. While Cheney won't be a congresswoman next year and probably won't be president, either, she's not going away.

    Because, after all, as she said on NBC, "I will do whatever it takes to keep Donald Trump out of the Oval Office."

    Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

    Domenico Montanaro is NPR's senior political editor/correspondent. Based in Washington, D.C., his work appears on air and online delivering analysis of the political climate in Washington and campaigns. He also helps edit political coverage.
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