Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney — a “Never Trump” Republican — has a Hollywood plan to save her floundering re-election campaign.
First, the House Jan. 6 Committee, with Cheney as its vice chair, reportedly hired ABC News President James Goldston to make the televised hearings more watchable.
Now, Cheney is hoping for help winning re-election in Wyoming’s Republican primary, and she’s netted an endorsement from another Hollywood insider: Kevin Costner of the TV series Yellowstone.
It’s unlikely to sway enough voters. Cheney is deep underwater in polls inside the heavily Republican state. And voters are likely to remember Costner campaigning for Democrat Barack Obama in 2008.
In 2019, Costner endorsed Democrat Pete Buttigieg for president, and he later transferred his support to President Joe Biden.
On Monday, the Yellowstone actor appeared in a photo with a cowboy hat and a shirt saying, “I’m for Liz Cheney.”
Cheney shared the photo on Twitter. The congresswoman added, “Real men put country over party.”
Take a look —
Real men put country over party. pic.twitter.com/7FaJpahtll
— Liz Cheney (@Liz_Cheney) August 1, 2022
It remains unclear whether Costner, a Colorado resident, is registered to vote in Wyoming.
By touting her Costner endorsement, Cheney has exemplified her unorthodox campaign strategy: looking outside Wyoming voters and beyond the midterm elections.
More specifically, Cheney is likely planning a run for president in 2024.
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On Aug. 16, Cheney will face a primary challenger in the most important election of her political career. Yet, last Tuesday, she was nowhere to be seen as thousands of voters gathered for a massive midsummer rodeo and cowboy festival in Wyoming’s largest city.
Instead, the three-term Republican congresswoman was 1,600 miles away in Washington presiding over a U.S. House committee comprised largely of Democrats investigating former President Donald Trump. As the cowboy fest roared back home, Cheney railed against Trump.
“Donald Trump made a purposeful choice to violate his oath of office,” she said during a hearing last month.
But as primary day approaches, there is also a pervasive belief among Cheney’s team that her unorthodox strategy in 2022 may put her in a stronger position for the 2024 presidential contest. Cheney’s fierce anti-Trump message as vice chairman of the congressional committee investigating the insurrection has strengthened her national brand while expanding a national network of donors and “Never Trump” critics in both parties who could boost a prospective White House run.
Cheney has yet to finalize any decisions about 2024, but she has not ruled out a presidential run as a Republican or an independent.
“The single most important thing is protecting the nation from Donald Trump,” Cheney said in an interview with ABC News that aired last month. She said she would make a decision about a potential White House bid “down the road.”
Cheney’s reality remains bleak in Wyoming, the state where Trump scored his largest margin of victory, 43 points, less than two years ago.
“She knew that she was shooting herself in the foot politically (in Wyoming) and she was going to walk around with a limp for the rest of her life,” Landon Brown, a Wyoming state representative and Cheney ally, said of Cheney’s unwavering Trump criticism. “But I could see this blossoming into something larger.”
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Cheney, the 55-year-old daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, is perhaps the best known among a small group of so-called “Never Trump” Republicans weighing presidential bids for 2024. They include term-limited Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan and Cheney’s only Republican colleague on the Jan. 6 commission, Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., who opted not to seek reelection this fall.
Trump would likely dominate a large field of presidential primary opponents should he run again, which it is almost certain he will do.
Few believe that an outspoken Trump critic could ultimately prevail in a Republican presidential primary. The vast majority of Republican voters still strongly approve of Trump.
And while her allies may be optimistic about her long-term future, Cheney would certainly like to avoid a blowout loss next month in her home state.
That’s a difficult task.
She has essentially been excommunicated by the Wyoming Republican Party, which voted last year to censure Cheney before deciding to stop recognizing her as a Republican altogether. Local GOP offices offer yard signs for Hageman and many other Republicans on the ballot but not Cheney.
Left with few options, she has turned to Democrats for help. Her campaign website now features a link to a form allowing voters to change their party affiliation to Republican to participate in the Republican primary.
Evidently, she’s reaching out to Hollywood people like Costner.
As Cheney focuses her energy on the Jan. 6 commission, Hageman has barnstormed the state courting small, rural crowds in the traditional mold of Wyoming politicking. The approach is more like the one Cheney herself used to top a crowded Republican primary field to win Wyoming’s lone House seat in 2016.
Some Cheney allies are skeptical there are enough Democratic crossover votes to put her over the top next month.
“I wouldn’t want to put any money on this race,” said Marilyn Kite, a former state Supreme Court justice who supports Cheney. “I hope like heck she’s successful, but if she isn’t, maybe her being true to her oath truly is more important in the long run.”
The Horn editorial team and the Associated Press contributed to this article.