Former President Donald Trump has made unseating Rep. Liz Cheney from office a priority, and will next week meet with two potential challengers in the ongoing quest to find a challenger that can take the powerful Republican down in the 2022 primary race.
Trump will meet at his Bedminster, N.J., golf club with Wyoming state Rep. Chuck Gray and attorney Darin Smith, two people who are emerging as the clear frontrunners to take on Cheney, reports Politico.
Cheney, the daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney and a powerhouse in her own right, had served as the No. 3 House Republican until this spring, when her colleagues ousted her from her conference chairmanship post after she blamed the former president for the Jan. 6 incidents at the Capitol and voted to impeach him.
Meanwhile, Trump's top political advisers have also been having talks with primary challengers, pressing them on their policy positions, the strength of their campaigns, and their fundraising capabilities.
Cheney, despite her removal from the House post, remains a fundraising force. She is coming off a second consecutive fundraising quarter, having brought in $1.88 million from April through June, according to the Federal Election Commission. Her campaign already has more than $2.8 million in the bank, after she raised another $1.54 million in the first three months of this year.
Trump's son, Donald Jr., who traveled to Wyoming to speak against Cheney earlier this year along with Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., for supporting the second impeachment filings against his father, is expected to be at the meetings at Bedminster, reports Politico.
Former Trump White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows has also traveled Wyoming to meet with potential Cheney challengers.
The former president is expected to interview other candidates before he decides who will get his endorsement. His advisors say that Trump must not only back the strongest candidate against Cheney but push out others in the crowd of people who want to challenge her.
"The Wyoming race is the highest priority of the cycle. It’s a must-win for President Trump. I hope he fully understands that because it’s an undeniable fact," said major GOP donor Christopher Ekstrom, who oversees a super PAC trying to unseat Cheney.
Trump advisers, shortly after the impeachment vote in January, started reaching out to Wyoming GOP officials and state party chairman Frank Eathome to discuss the state's politics and got in touch with the Club for Growth, a pro-Trump group that opposes Cheney.
Early in the search, the Trump team had sounded out state Treasurer Curt Meier, who said he was not interested and recommended Gray.
In addition, Trump pollster John McLaughlin commissioned a survey through Trump's political action committee to test the strength of Gray and another potential candidate, state Sen. Anthony Bouchard.
Trump has been in touch with Club for Growth President David McIntosh, who has urged him to hold off on an endorsement until he's sure he has found the right person. The pro-Trump group expects to spend millions in the contest.
"Trump’s analysis is correct that we need to get it down to a two-person race, and at that point, the challenger is likely to win, based on the polling we’ve done," McIntosh said in an interview.
McIntosh’s organization also this week started airing anti-Cheney ads, but hasn't yet made an endorsement in the race. He said the ideal scenario would be that "Trump and the Club are aligned" in their support of a challenger.
Cheney, meanwhile, says that she welcomes the debate posed by Trump's involvement in the upcoming race.
"If they think that they are going to come into Wyoming and make the argument that the people of Wyoming should vote for someone who is loyal to Donald Trump over somebody who is loyal to the Constitution, I welcome that debate," Cheney said in a May interview on NBC’s "Today Show."
However, Trump supporters say they are sure Cheney can be defeated, pointing to polls that show her as being deeply vulnerable. Cheney's campaign hasn't released its own survey findings.
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