Media and D.C. darling Liz Cheney lost her Wyoming Republican primary race by a staggering 37 points. But if you don’t count the thousands of Democrats that pretended to be Republican for the sole reason of helping her battle against Wyoming Republican voters, her numbers were far worse.
It’s not a total surprise. Even the New York Times admitted that Cheney broke her promise to Republican voters that she wouldn’t sabotage the state’s party primary by soliciting Democrat votes when she sent mailers courting Wyoming Democrats. In June, the Times reported that Cheney sent out instructions on how they could pretend to be Republican in order to help defeat the will of real Wyoming Republicans.
“In the last week, Wyoming Democrats have received mail from Ms. Cheney’s campaign with specific instructions on how to change their party affiliation to vote for her,” read the Times less than two months before the primary election. “Ms. Cheney’s campaign website now has a link to a form for changing parties.”
In February, Cheney previously dismissed the idea that she would ask Democrats to change parties to interfere in the Republican contest, telling the paper, “That is not something that I have contemplated, that I have organized or that I will organize.”
On Tuesday, Cheney lost the race by even wider margins than predicted by a series of late-summer polls. A Federalist analysis of the voting data shows, however, that Cheney lost the Republican contest by even more, and the incumbent congresswoman’s strategy to court Democrat voters worked to mask to scale of her triumphant defeat by Trump-endorsed attorney Harriet Hageman.
Turnout among Democrats in their own closed-party primary plummeted from 2018 and 2020 to 2022 as Cheney’s operatives actively sought to recruit Democrat voters for the Republican race. Nearly 26,000 Democrats voted in the Democrat primary two years ago, whereas just more than 8,000 did so on Tuesday. That’s a drop of more than 17,000 voters in an election where Republicans saw a more than 61,000-person jump in turnout from 2020.
Whatever share of those 17,000 Democrats opted to cast a ballot in the Republican contest almost certainly did so for Cheney, with the largest drops in Democrat turnout occurring in the state’s bluest places including Teton County (84 percent drop), Fremont County (74 percent drop), and Laramie County (68 percent drop). Albany County, the only county besides Teton that voted for Joe Biden in 2020, saw a 65 percent drop in Democrat turnout this year compared to two years ago.
At the same time, GOP turnout surged in those same counties. The number of Republican ballots jumped by more than 200 percent in Teton County, dubbed the “California portion” of the state by locals, and jumped more than 60 percent in Laramie. For every one Democrat vote cast in 2018, the last midterm cycle, six Republican ballots were counted. That number dropped to four in 2020, a presidential year where races are generally closer, but it skyrocketed to 21 on Tuesday.
Cheney earned less than 50,000 of the nearly 172,000 votes cast in Tuesday’s Republican primary, according to unofficial results from the Wyoming secretary of state’s office. If the 17,000 Democrats representing the discrepancy from the last election switched over to vote for the at-large representative — and it’s likely more, given the 61,000-person jump in turnout — at least a third of all Cheney’s votes counted on Tuesday came from Democrats. Subtracting 17,000 votes from 50,000 means Cheney would have landed only 33,000 votes of actual Republicans, or less than 20 percent of the Republican vote.
Even with inflated numbers by Democrats, Cheney still came nearly 30,000 votes short of her 2020 primary total, when 78,870 ballots were cast in her favor.
Cheney’s get-out-the-vote operation raised eyebrows across the state after residents who did not order absentee ballots received unsolicited request forms for unsupervised mail-in ballots, which included the inscription “Paid for by Liz Cheney for Wyoming,” according to Cowboy State Daily, a local Wyoming paper.
“Absentee ballot request forms were sent to homes in every Wyoming county this week on Cheney’s behalf,” the paper reported. “The mailers were marked with a return address to the county clerk of their respective counties on one side, along with the words, printed in all-capital letters, ‘OFFICIAL ELECTION DOCUMENT ENCLOSED.'”
Days later, the Cheney campaign received a warning from the Wyoming secretary of state’s office against using “official election” language in literature.
“We did have contact with (the Cheney campaign) last week just to let them know we were receiving calls and to caution them against using ‘official election’ language on the mailers,” said Monique Meese, spokeswoman for Wyoming Secretary of State Ed Buchanan, in a statement to Cowboy State Daily. “Some recipients thought that (the mailers) came from the Secretary of State or the County Clerk.”
While Cheney’s re-election effort begged state Democrats to vote for her, Democrat groups poured in ad spending with targeted social media campaigns, including the group “Defending Freedom and Democracy.” The group published a series of campaign advertisements featuring Democrats who changed their party affiliation to support Cheney and spent more to promote the ads on Facebook than both Cheney and Hageman, according to the social media company’s political ad tracker. Minnesota Democrat Rep. Dean Phillips also made a video for Twitter encouraging voters to support Cheney, and Occupy Democrats backed the congresswoman last fall with an online endorsement.