Liz Cheney’s re-election campaign is flush with cash, but in her home state, Trump voters still bear a grudge

For all of the backlash she’s faced, Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming wants Republicans to know she’s on a fundraising hot streak.

Fox News broke the story Tuesday morning that Cheney’s re-election team raised nearly $1.9 million US in the second quarter of this year. When you add that to the $1.5 million she received during the first quarter, the total surpasses what she was able to raise for her entire 2020 re-election campaign.

“Cheney fundraising surge continues, as Wyoming congresswoman sets second straight record,” the headline reads.

It is worth noting that Fox News was first with this information. On the surface, it might appear Cheney wants the network’s conservative viewership base to know she is still a viable candidate despite her criticism of former Republican president Donald Trump.

Cheney has become the face of the anti-Trump movement within her party. She finds herself in the middle of a struggle to determine the future of the Republican Party and whether it will include the former president. She is one of a handful of elected Republicans willing to speak out against Trump in a battle that is deeply dividing the party’s membership.

She was one of just 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump for inciting violence against the government in the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, and she has repeatedly criticized Trump’s false claims and lies about widespread fraud in the 2020 election that brought Democrat Joe Biden to office.

Even though she is breaking her own fundraising records, her words and actions have triggered serious fallout in her home state. 

CBC News recently travelled to Wyoming to find out what voters there really think about Cheney and her efforts to shape the future of the Republican Party.

‘Everywhere you look, there’s a Donald Trump flag’

In the 2020 presidential election, Trump won Wyoming with nearly 70 per cent of the vote. Voters here are considered some of the most conservative in the country.

“Everywhere you look, there’s a Donald Trump flag. Everywhere. How could [Cheney] not support Donald Trump and claim she’s supporting the people of Wyoming?” said Karl Milner, a veteran who runs a gun range and community garden for fellow veterans in Gillette.

Karl Milner, a veteran who runs a gun range and community garden for fellow veterans in Gillette, Wyo., says he wants to see Cheney defeated and a new Republican representative for Wyoming in the House of Representatives. (Katie Simpson/CBC)

Republican lawmakers in the state voted to censure Cheney in the immediate aftermath of her impeachment vote. Half a dozen challengers have already emerged to try to replace her as the Republican candidate in her home state ahead of the 2022 midterm elections. 

And her colleagues in Washington, D.C., voted to remove her from her position as the third most powerful Republican in the House of Representatives.

Milner, a Trump supporter, said he wants to see a new Republican candidate for the House in next year’s campaign. He also said he thinks Cheney hasn’t done enough for veterans like him. 

“She’s a piece of work,” he said during an interview with CBC News at his outdoor gun range on the outskirts of town.

Wyoming’s landscapes are filled with stunning, wide-open views. Its political landscape is dominated by Republican politics. (Katie Simpson/CBC)

The big lie persists

Cheney entered federal politics in 2016, following in the footsteps of her father, former vice-president Dick Cheney, who served in the role under George W. Bush. 

She easily won the same House seat that her father held decades earlier. 

She has spent much of her time in Congress supporting traditionally conservative ideas, including on social issues and tax policy, as well as advocating for Wyoming’s energy industry. She wants her party to continue along that path — without any involvement from Trump. 

In February, Cheney was asked about a speech Trump was set to deliver at a gathering of conservative lawmakers and advocates called CPAC, the Conservative Political Action Conference. 

“I’ve been clear about my views about President Trump and the extent to which, following January 6, I don’t believe that he should be playing a role in the future of the party or the country,” she said during a news conference. 

Cheney’s words have not landed well with many Trump’s supporters in Wyoming.

WATCH | The National’s report from Wyoming: 

Republican Sen. Liz Cheney was once popular in her home state of Wyoming, but her vocal criticisms of former U.S. president Donald Trump have turned her into a polarizing figure. 3:23

“As a Republican, she’s what you’d call a turncoat,” said retired business owner Tom Elsberry during an interview at a busy food truck gathering in Cheyenne.

“She turned against her president. She turned against her country.”

While it is not true that the 2020 presidential election was stolen, the lie continues to influence voters as well as candidates.

“I could put a murderer on death row with less circumstantial evidence than we have to prove there was massive fraud in that election,” said Darin Smith, one of the candidates trying to replace Cheney as the Republican nominee.

Lawyer and businessman Darin Smith announces his primary campaign against Cheney in front of the state capitol in Cheyenne on May 7. (Nathan Layne/Reuters)

Smith, an attorney, ran against Cheney for the Republican nomination in 2016 and lost. 

CBC News pressed Smith about whether he truly believes the presidential election was stolen, and he stood by the claim. 

“I believe that there was massive fraud in this election,” he said.

Winning over unicorns

Winning back the Republican base in Wyoming may be a challenge for Cheney, no matter how much money she is able to raise. However, she appears to be making inroads with voters who traditionally have not supported her.

“When she stood up for the constitution, she gained all of my respect,” said Heather Blakely, a registered Democrat. The Cheyenne teacher describes herself as a political unicorn, being a progressive voter in such a conservative state. 

“I stand 100 per cent behind her as a Democrat in Wyoming because she did what was right.”

Blakely said she will vote for Cheney if she hangs on as the Republican nominee.

Earning the votes of political unicorns will not get Cheney very far in her home state. 

Yet, she remains unapologetic in her push to shape the Republican Party’s future. 

And with her fundraising numbers where they are right now, there’s no sign she’ll change course.

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