It would be strange to write about “controversy” within the ranks of the GOP in Wyoming, one of the reddest of red states. However, there are two issues. First, let’s dispense with any chance any Democrat has of winning any statewide race. Instead, the “controversy” involves one internal problem intrinsic to the GOP, and one involving the open Senate seat up for grabs.
Recently, the GOP central state committee adopted a system of bylaws and policy platform planks that some county leaders say go too far to the right. For example, the state committee adopted planks supporting voter ID requirements, objected to reporting vaccinations to health officials, and denied the role of fossil fuel in climate change. For some, this went too far as the legislature- dominated by the GOP- is attempting to put those policies into legislation. <sarcasm> Shame on them for passing conservative legislation. Everyone knows that party platforms are just words…
After some county officials complained and some even penned op-ed columns critical of the moves, it was learned that the state GOP opened investigations into these county chiefs claiming open defiance. Two known county chiefs- Joe McGinley of Natrona county and Dani Olsen of Laramie county- are apparently under these investigations. Some have claimed that pushing the party’s platform on the floor of the legislature should require the state GOP to register as a lobbying organization. One lawmaker particularly singled out is Pat Sweeney of Caspar, considered a moderate by many.
Ordinarily this would not be big news, but some county chiefs are now complaining that the investigations started by the GOP central committee is having two deleterious effects down the ballot. First, they are complaining that the internecine warfare is keeping young candidates from stepping forward. Second, some have stated that donations are starting to dry up. The state GOP needs to address these issues.
On the Senate front, former Congresswoman Cynthia Lummis has thrown her name in the mix and seems the likely winner and next Senator from Wyoming. Lingering over the coronation is the possibility that current Congresswoman Lynn Cheney will enter the race which would create a major primary battle. For Cheney, she is at a crossroads. She can either enter the Senate race, or stay in the House where she would likely assume a leadership role should the GOP take control.
Enter Rand Paul who has taken exception to Cheney and has openly supported Lummis. The bad blood between Paul and Cheney actually dates back to their fathers- Dick Cheney and Ron Paul- who were on opposite sides of the Iraq War debate. Since Rand Paul was elected, he has backed Lynn Cheney’s primary opponents. According to some sources, Kentucky’s other Senator, Mitch McConnell is quietly urging Cheney to run and views Lummis- who was often at odds with House leadership- as a gadfly for his agenda. Other Senators like Joni Errnst (R-IA) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) are also allegedly trying to urge Cheney to run.
This potential battle centers around foreign policy. Both are conservative members of the GOP. What differentiates them is their hawkishness on foreign policy. And although Cheney may have her allies in the Senate, Lummis is not without allies also. Among them are Mike Lee (R-UT), Kevin Cramer (R-ND), and Bill Cassidy (R-LA). They still remember Cheney’s ill-fated primary challenge against Republican Mike Enzi six years ago. Lummis also has supporters in the House. California Republican Kevin McCarthy may run for House Speaker should the GOP recapture the lower chamber in 2020. However, it is clear that Cheney has staked out some positions to the right of McCarthy and there is a possibility that she would challenge McCarthy- or other possible Republicans- in the race for House Speaker. Mark Meadows, one of Trump’s key confidantes and allies on Capitol Hill has already donated to the Lummis campaign.
Some have characterized the recent Paul-Cheney Twitter spat as directed at an audience of one: Trump. Both Lummis and Cheney would vie for a presidential endorsement. However, the battle, should it occur, would force Trump to make a decision regarding foreign policy philosophy. Lummis is against nation-building while Cheney is a hawk in this area. It would serve Trump well to stay out of the fray.
At a White House event, Trump heaped praise upon Cheney and Cheney is often a guest on Fox News that has caught Trump’s eye and ear. Conversely, in 2016 Lummis stated that she “held her nose” and voted for Trump. Even still, it was rumored that Trump seriously considered Lummis as an Interior Secretary in his administration. Whoever emerges, the Senate will be different with the departure of the low-key Enzi. Lummis may be a headache if she resumes the confrontational stances she took while in the House against leadership at times. Perhaps McConnell sees her as potential thorn in his side.
Of course, if Cheney enters the Senate race, that leaves an open House seat. There is no shortage of potential Republican candidates who will possibly run. This will open up a huge battle for the seat in the House. Realistically, there are about 10-15 possibilities in the mix.
With the Wyoming filing deadline at the end of May, there is still plenty of positioning, contemplating and political intrigue left to this story. What Lynn Cheney does and what she decides will be an important sideshow not only in Wyoming, but nationally. Yet despite the possibility of a Lummis-Cheney death match and a House seat free-for-all, there is one constant among all the pundits out there: Not a single Democrat has a snowball’s chance in hell of winning either the House or Senate race in Wyoming come 2020.