Ms. Cheney, 46, is showing up everywhere in the state, from chicken dinners to cattle growers’ meetings, sometimes with her parents in tow. She has made it clear that she wants to run for the Senate seat now held by Michael B. Enzi, a soft-spoken Republican and onetime fly-fishing partner of her father.
But Ms. Cheney’s move threatens to start a civil war within the state’s Republican establishment, despite the reverence many hold for her family.
Mr. Enzi, 69, says he is not ready to retire, and many Republicans say he has done nothing to deserve being turned out.
It would bring about “the destruction of the Republican Party of Wyoming if she decides to run and he runs, too,” Alan K. Simpson, a former Republican senator from the state, said in an interview last week. “It’s a disaster — a divisive, ugly situation — and all it does is open the door for the Democrats for 20 years.”
In an interview last week after a town hall-style meeting at the county fairgrounds here, a few feet from a plaque marking the site of Mr. Cheney’s first political speech, Mr. Enzi revealed that Ms. Cheney told him this year that she was thinking about challenging him in 2014.
“She called me and said that she’s looking at it,” he said.
Unlike former Republican colleagues who were felled in recent elections because they lost touch with home or cast votes that angered Republicans, Mr. Enzi has a reliably conservative record and has not offered critics much fodder. And at his town meetings, even as constituents flashed anger at Washington and assorted powers “back East,” none showed any ill will toward him.
I’ll make a couple points. First, I’d take anything Alan Simpson says with a large grain of salt, and his warning that a Cheney challenge to Enzi would result in the destruction of the Wyoming Republican Party and open the door to a Democrat Senator from the state is ludicrous. Whoever wins the GOP primary — Cheney or Enzi — would be the overwhelming favorite to win the general election. Simpson, who’s most famous for the disastrous Simpson-Mazzoli amnesty bill in 1986, has always been an establishment guy and has always been more interested in getting on the Sunday talk shows than advancing conservatism..
Second, I think Enzi overestimates his conservative support. As you’ll recall, he teamed up with Dick Durbin to co-sponsor a Senate bill which would impose a massive new internet sales tax just four months ago. Such a cumbersome bureaucratic mess like that would be harmful even in a good economy but, as Stacy noted at the time, it would be particularly disastrous in the Obama economy. There’s no way I can square a vote for what amounts to a national sales tax increase with a "reliably conservative record". Conservatives are supposed to oppose government expansion, not co-sponsor bills with liberals to facilitate it. A competitive primary would force Enzi to defend his record and explain himself. Isn’t that a good thing? As Governor Palin recently said:
Competition makes everyone work harder, be better, and be held accountable. This applies to politics, too. No one is ‘entitled’ to anything.
Governor Palin wasn’t specifically referring to Enzi, but her words are no less applicable in Wyoming than in Florida or New Hampshire.