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Liz Cheney's Senate Bid Exposes GOP Schism

Image: Liz Cheney's Senate Bid Exposes GOP Schism

By Lisa Barron   |   Wednesday, 17 Jul 2013 10:56 AM

Liz Cheney's decision to jump into the Wyoming Senate race is threatening to bring an all out generational war within the Republican Party.

Senators are horrified that the former Second Daughter would challenge low key veteran conservative Sen. Mike Enzi, who immediately brought forward his announcement that he will seek a fourth term next year.

Related: Liz Cheney to Seek Wyoming Senate Seat

Enzi made it clear that he will not roll over with a stinging message to his new opponent. "I thought we were friends," he told reporters

"She said that if I ran she wasn't going to run — obviously that wasn't correct."

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Cheney, 46, says she wants to be among a new generation of conservative Republicans in the Senate, casting herself in the mold of Texas' Ted Cruz and Utah's Mike Lee. "I don't see seniority as a plus," she said in announcing her run.

But she gained no support from frequent Cruz ally, Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky. "When I heard Liz Cheney was running for Senate I wondered if she was running in her home state of Virginia," he said, according to Politico.

When Paul was asked about Cheney's potential run earlier this month, he told Politico, "I am a friend of Sen. Enzi and while we aren't exactly the same, I consider him a good conservative."

Opponents say that Cheney — who casts herself as a fourth-generation Wyomingite — has spent almost her whole life in Virginia, moving back to the Equality State only last year, when she bought a $1.9 million home in an exclusive Jackson Hole community, specifically so she could mount a campaign for the Senate.

She has since traveled the state giving speeches in the lead up to Tuesday's formal announcement that she would try to topple Enzi, 69, in a primary.

Enzi had already gained the backing of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, which said last week it would support him if Cheney announced. "Our support will be there for Mike," said chairman, Sen. Jerry Moran of Kansas.

Wyoming's other two Congressional members also declared their backing for their colleague. Sen. John Barrasso stood with Enzi when he was being asked about Cheney's run.

"Sen. Enzi is my friend, he is my mentor, he is a tremendous senator for the people of Wyoming," Barrasso said. "I am supporting him for re-election."

When asked what he thought about Cheney, he said, "She's very talented and has a bright future."

The state's sole representative, Republican Cynthia Lummis also made it clear where her sympathies lie. She told CNN she considered Cheney's move "bad form."

"I don't know that anybody can out-conservative Mike Enzi," said Lummis, who had planned to run for the Senate herself if Enzi had retired.

Lummis also attacked Cheney as an out-of-stater, moving back for political advantage.

"It's a unique strategy to live your entire life elsewhere and then come to a state a year before you're going to announce you're going to run for that state's highest office," she said.

"Hillary Clinton could pull this off in New York. In my opinion, Liz Cheney cannot pull this off in Wyoming and I'm disappointed that she's decided to try. She should run from Virginia."

But despite the animosity, the Cheney name is still popular in Wyoming, which her father Dick Cheney represented for six terms in the House of Representatives.

Liz Cheney, who served as a State Department attorney in the Bush administration and now works as a political commentator on Fox News, is also likely to have a huge monetary advantage over Enzi once the primary campaign starts in earnest. Enzi, a former accountant, admits he is not good at fundraising, while the Cheney name will ensure the dollars pour in for his challenger.

"Money-raising has always been a problem for me," The New York Times quoted Enzi as saying. The Times said he has just $488,000 in the bank and has raised "a paltry $171,000" in the past three months.

But, The Times said, Cheney "with ample financial connections, is likely to be a formidable fund-raiser. Her father has been talking up her candidacy with top Republican donors in New York City, and Ms. Cheney will also have the support of some Bush donors."

However one Bush confidante immediately came out in support of the sitting senator. Ari Fleischer, who served as the 43rd president's White House press spokesman, tweeted, "I'm a big fan of Liz Cheney. But not in this race."

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In a later tweet, he added, "divisive, internal GOP fights aren't helpful."

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Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky wasted no time in responding to Liz Cheney's declaration Tuesday that she will run for the U.S. Senate in Wyoming.

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