Sniffin, Bill (2020)

Donald Trump made a big Cowboy State splash this past week when he anointed Harriet Hageman as his choice to run for Wyoming’s lone congressional seat against three-term incumbent Liz Cheney.

Cheney and the former president have been feuding all year, and this brings their dispute to a head-to-head fight. Hageman’s name will be on the ballot, but it might as well be Trump versus Cheney.

Trump and Cheney are competing to see who can be feistier. Trump calls Liz names. Liz never tires of criticizing the former president. When the news came about his endorsement of Harriet, she replied: “Bring it.”

Over the years, I have gotten to know both Liz and Harriet. This is shaping up to be a heavyweight title bout between two very smart and well-funded Wyoming women candidates.

Of course, this is all based on whether Liz even decides to stay in the race. I have predicted she will drop out and move on to the national stage, where she has already carved out a huge presence.

Liz used to be a force in the U.S. Congress because of her political position. Much of her influence in that arena is gone now. While losing influence in Congress, her influence has grown across the country. She has become a major force in national politics because of her eloquent and dogged criticism of Trump and his policies. She has become a darling of the liberal national media.

As for the primary race itself, other congressional candidates, like Cheyenne attorney Darin Smith, have bowed out, but State Sen. Anthony Bouchard, R-Cheyenne, and State Rep. Chuck Gray, R-Casper. are hanging in there as I write this Sept. 10. (Editor’s note: Gray has since suspended his campaign; Bouchard has not.)

Even without Trump’s endorsement, Hageman could have been predicted to defeat Bouchard and Gray. She would have a more difficult time with Smith, but for now, Smith has done what he originally said he would do – drop out in favor of Trump’s choice against Liz Cheney. But if Cheney drops out, Smith retains the right to retract that decision and get back in the race.

From past experience with Cheney and Hageman, I would compare their campaigns as follows: Liz likes retail campaigning, with lots of big-budget ad campaigns and small, local, intimate gatherings of supporters. Harriet likes wholesale campaigning, which I would describe as mixing it up with the voters, and even with the other candidates.

Harriet is a bulldog, and if you are going to fight with her, you’d better come to the fight prepared for a battle. Although massively outspent by her opponents, Mark Gordon, Foster Friess and Sam Galeotos, in the 2018 governor’s race, she did well, finishing third.

Liz Cheney chatted with reporters Friday, including Editor Jimmy Orr of the Cowboy State Daily. Here are some of those excerpts:

It was on the topic of the Constitution where Cheney drew a big difference between herself and Hageman, a Wyoming attorney. She said both she and Hageman had taken oaths. Her oath was when she became a member of Congress. Hageman’s was when she became a member of the Wyoming Bar. Only she herself has adhered to their respective oaths, Cheney said.

“[Hageman] is now abandoning that principle, sacrificing her oath, abandoning her duty to the people of Wyoming – in order to pledge loyalty to Donald Trump,” Cheney said.

“She seems to be stepping into the shoes of people like Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell, two attorneys who recently have been sanctioned by the courts for lying about the election,” she said.

Cheney said it was “tragic to see that kind of opportunism” and was “inconsistent with Wyoming values.”

In that vein, she also expressed concern with the chairman of the Wyoming Republican Party, Frank Eathorne, for also putting loyalty to the former president above the Constitution, mentioning that he expressed support for secession following the Capitol riots of Jan. 6.

As for Trump’s endorsement of Hageman, Cheney called the whole process of interviewing with the former president in hopes of receiving an endorsement “sad.”

“The notion that candidates have felt that they needed to go to New Jersey to pledge their allegiance to Donald Trump, rather than to the people of Wyoming and the Constitution is really sad to see,” she said.

Hageman, meanwhile, appeared on Fox News and explained that she used to support Cheney, but that “Cheney had changed.”

“If I knew what she was going to turn into, I would never had answered that first phone call.”

Coincidentally, Hageman had supported Cheney during her first two campaigns for U.S. Congress.

Bill Sniffin is a longtime journalist from Lander and publisher of Cowboy State Daily. Email: bsniffin@wyoming.com.

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