House Republican Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy made history on Thursday by endorsing Rep. Liz Cheney’s primary opponent to represent Wyoming, attorney Harriet Hageman.
“After spending time with Harriet, it is readily apparent she will always listen and prioritize the needs of her local communities and is focused on tackling our nation’s biggest problems,” McCarthy told The Federalist. “I look forward to serving with Harriet for years to come.”
The endorsement from the party’s top lawmaker in the lower chamber comes after a long string of Cheney attacks on her colleagues and even her own constituents, resulting in numerous censures and demotions. She was stripped of her No. 3 role in House leadership last May in an overwhelming vote. Months later, she was censured by her own state party, which voted to no longer recognize its sole House member as a Republican. The RNC formally censured Cheney earlier this month and called on Republicans to abandon the incumbent lawmaker.
Cheney’s alienation from Republican voters is so stark that even The New York Times noticed, writing, she “hasn’t appeared at a state Republican Party function in more than two years and hasn’t been to an in-person event for any of the party’s 23 county chapters since 2020.”
Hageman met with McCarthy for 45 minutes in January, where she expressed her desire to better represent Wyoming voters. Specifically, she asked for an opportunity to serve on the Natural Resources Committee because of the myriad public lands issues of import to Wyoming voters. By contrast, although Cheney used to serve on the Natural Resources Committee, she no longer serves there, instead picking a committee to advance the beltway interests she’s accused of representing in the place of Wyomingites.
One of the many reasons Cheney lost the support of the Republican conference was because even though she was a member of leadership, she funded the primary opponent of Kentucky Republican Rep. Thomas Massie in 2020. Usually such endorsements against sitting members are verboten for Republican leaders. Cheney, who donated the maximum amount to a candidate who eventually won just 19 percent of the vote against Massie, argued her decision to fund Massie’s opponent was a “special case,” an argument her colleagues found unconvincing at best.
But now Cheney is the “special case,” and McCarthy has thrown his support behind Hageman as House minority leader.
As bad as Cheney’s political instincts have been, her war with Republican voters has been good for her fundraising. The Wyoming lawmaker has already raised more than $7 million in the upcoming cycle, with nearly $5 million remaining in cash on hand, according to OpenSecrets. The total sum is already more than Cheney raised in the prior two cycles combined.
What’s made this year’s cycle so lucrative is Cheney’s appeal to progressive blue-dollar donors eager to spend money on NeverTrump acolytes. According to an analysis by The Federalist of campaign finance reports in December, Cheney has already raked in almost $55,000 for her competitive re-election bid from the same donors who bankrolled the left-wing Lincoln Project.
Hageman, meanwhile, has built up local support and earned the endorsement of former President Donald Trump ahead of the August primary. While few think Cheney has a shot, her powerful coffers will be deployed until then.
McCarthy’s endorsement offers Hageman an opportunity to build resources that can compete with Cheney’s nearly $5 million-dollar war chest. The minority leader throwing his support behind Hageman will now allow other members of the GOP conference to openly support Cheney’s primary challenger with the blessing of leadership.
A series of polls conducted since Cheney escalated her feud with Trump and the Republican voter reveal an incumbent congresswoman deep underwater in a state carried by the former president with a wider margin than anywhere else in the country. Out of three surveys conducted in the last election’s aftermath, Cheney failed to garner more than 29 percent support among likely primary voters. The at-large congresswoman’s support is far short of the 40 percent vote share she captured in 2016 to secure her first nomination.