Speculation Abounds on What's Next for Liz Cheney

Monday, 06 Jan 2014 11:15 PM

By Cathy Burke

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Liz Cheney's abrupt departure from the primary campaign for a U.S. Senate seat from Wyoming had political insiders speculating about her next move — including a possible future run for office, reports said Monday night.

Politico noted that one possible campaign might include a bid for the House seat once held by her father, former Vice President Dick Cheney — or even another crack at incumbent Republican Sen. Mike Enzi's seat if he retires in 2020 at age 76.

The Star-Tribune in Wyoming, meanwhile, reported that Cheney's fat campaign coffers — she raised $1 million in her first four months on the campaign trail — and what she'll do with the money might be telling signs about her future in politics.

She can keep the cash in her war chest for future elections, donate it to a nonprofit of her choice, or start a political action committee to advocate for her causes, says the Federal Election Commission, the Star-Tribune noted.

It would be interesting to see Cheney throw her hat into the ring in a future election, though local political observers are glad this race is over, Wyoming-based political strategist Joe Milczewski told the Star-Tribune.

"I never heard people say they didn't like Liz Cheney," he said. "It was the fact that they know and like Enzi and wanted to keep voting for him."

Politico reported that Cheney's own statement in dropping out of the race seemed to leave the door open for a possible future run.

"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," she said, setting off speculation in Wyoming about whether she might run for the House seat once held by her father if it opens in 2018, or run again for Enzi's Senate seat if he retires in 2020.

"Liz is a rising star in Wyoming and national politics, and we look forward to her return when the time is right for her and her family," Wyoming state Republican Chairwoman Tammy Hooper said, Politico reported.

There's nowhere in Wyoming where Cheney might win in the short term, political operatives told Politico.

Republican Gov. Matt Mead will probably announce in March that he'll go after a second term, but he has ruled out a third term in 2018, leaving Rep. Cynthia Lummis, the state's at-large House member, with a possible shot at succeeding him, Politico reported.

The likely crowded field that would be after Lummis' open House seat might give Cheney an edge for the seat her father held from 1979 until 1989, Politico noted.

"Playing the family card keeps the door propped open," one Republican strategist told Politico. "You get the nostalgia thing for Liz to have her dad's old seat. That's kind of cool. And Cynthia would love to run for governor."

Former Wyoming Sen. Al Simpson, who had a public falling-out with the Cheney family over his support for Enzi, is confident Liz Cheney will run again.

"She is a part of Wyoming's political future," he said.

Gale Geringer, a Wyoming-based lobbyist who was chief of staff to the late Sen. Craig Thomas, told Politico that Cheney was widely admired a year ago as a new voice of conservatism, but echoed Milczewski's concerns that Republicans may have been turned off by her challenge to the popular Enzi.

"The getting-to-know-you process was not positive for her in many ways," Geringer told Politico.

"It will take some time to repair relationships, but it can be done if she's willing to do the leg work. I’m assuming that, if she has all the talents we thought she did, she will learn from this and do it differently."

Despite her missteps during her short-lived run — including a very public and protracted spat over gay marriage with her lesbian sister Mary — Wyoming Republican national committeewoman Marti Halverson told Politico you can't count Liz Cheney out.

"She’s smart, passionate, and young — there's plenty of political future for her," Halverson said in an email. "I do not see her running for anything in the near future. Farther out, once health issues are resolved, anything is possible."

Milczewski agreed.

"She doesn't strike me as the type of person who would bow out because the numbers are bad," he told the Star-Tribune. "She needed 500 out of 500 things to fall the right way in order for her to win the election. Whether it was now or six months from now, it was probably going to end up the same way."

Red State's Erick Erickson, who endorsed her, said he'll be there for her in the future, too.

"I’d gladly support Liz in any endeavor," he told Politico. "She's a wonderful person."

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