Cheney in ’24?

Thoughts on the scenarios.

Of course, the speculation that Liz Cheney might run for the presidency in some capacity in 2024 is not a new one, but her loss this week in her bid to be re-nominated as the Republican candidate for the US House has sparked the discussions anew. After being asked, Cheney herself addressed it on the Today Show earlier this week (Liz Cheney ‘thinking about’ White House run after primary loss, vows to do ‘whatever it takes’ to defeat Trump).

Asked if she plans to run for president, she first deflected and argued that the GOP needs to be taken in a different direction. “We’ve now got one major political party, my party, which has really become a cult of personality, and we’ve got to get this party back to a place where we’re embracing the values and the principles on which it was founded,” she said.

Pressed again about whether she’s contemplating running for president, Cheney said, “That’s a decision that I’m going to make in the coming months, and I’m not going to make any announcements here this morning — but it is something that I am thinking about.”

This all led Amanda Carpenter at The Bulwark to pen a piece asking folks, including Cheney, to Shut Down the Cheney 2024 Chatter.

None of this is helpful, even if she does want to run for president. Moreover, it is counterproductive to the Great Task immediately at hand: finishing her work as a leader of the House January 6th Committee. Because once someone becomes a presidential candidate, or is known even to be exploring a bid, the media reduces every one of her actions into a bare-knuckled political calculation.

Which is exactly what the Jan. 6th Committee, where Cheney has said she is doing her life’s most important work, doesn’t need.

[…]

If Cheney wants to be a presidential candidate or mount another effort to defeat Trump in 2024, she should. Later. Those questions should be decisively, definitively deferred until she has packed up her congressional office.

I don’t necessarily disagree, but also think that no matter what Cheney says, there will be plenty of media voices speculating about her plans. Indeed, right-wing critics will accuse her of doing all of this for personal gain (including future political moves) no matter what else is said. Moreover, I am not especially convinced that there is a critical mass of persons out there who are persuadable on the facts but who will be soured on listening to those facts if speculation about 2024 ramps up to some specific level.

Having said all of that, I would certainly prefer, as per Carpenter, that Cheney’s focus remains laser-like on the committee’s work (and we know that it faces a coming end date, so there will be time aplenty to think about 2024 soon enough).

But beyond all of that, I would note that Cheney is smart enough to know that she can’t win. She can’t win the GOP nomination (I can imagine no realistic scenario wherein that is the case). She certainly can’t win an independent or third-party bid.

So, why would she run? The only answer would be to damage Trump’s attempt to be re-elected.

Let’s dismiss the third-party or independent route out of hand. Even with her name recognition, her ability to draw enough votes to guarantee a difference in the process is still pretty slim. For one thing, voters will know that she can’t win and so be reluctant to cast votes for her. For another, there is a chance that she could also siphon some NeverTrump votes away from the Democrats (which would be counter-productive to her cause). And most importantly, she wouldn’t be a major factor (such as being included in debates) until late in the process (fall of 2024).

Also: if she runs as anything other than a Republican, all her talk about saving her party will be washed away. She would no longer even be a RINO to her opponents, she will have proved that she isn’t an R at all (thus proving they were right about here all along–which would not be a helpful narrative to her goals).

Since she has already proven she is willing to run an incredibly forthright, losing campaign within her own party in Wyoming to get the word out about the threat to American democracy that is Donald Trump, I suspect she is willing to do so again on the national stage. There is enough anti-Trump sentiment out there to fund such activity.

Indeed, If her goal is to try and maximize political damage against Trump and prevent him from reaching the White House again (and I think it is) then her best course of action is to run in the GOP primary with the express purpose of being in the mix to directly confront Trump via her campaign and on the debate stage. It would maximize her message in ways that nothing else could. It would get her message straight into the MAGAverse if she was part of those debates. It would also allow her to get the word out to citizens who pay only marginal attention to politics save during campaign season.

Now, it would also lead to increased personal threats and difficulties. The degree to which she would want to go through all of that is another matter. But if she is going to run, I think these would be the reasons and goals. Maybe she would have to talk herself into the idea that she could actually win to take it on, but again, I think she is smart enough to know that she has no chance to do that.

That means if she did run she would be an oddity: someone specifically running for a reason other than winning, which given her performance to date with the January 6th committee, suggests it would be an intriguing thing to watch.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2024, US Politics, , , , ,
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter

Comments

  1. charon says:

    Possible RNC precondition for participating in debates is to require a pledge to endorse the party’s eventual selection – ploy to keep Liz out of the debates.

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  2. Sleeping Dog says:

    @charon:

    The R’s had that condition on participation in 2016 and while TFG agreed early in the campaign, he reneged later, before capturing the nomination.

    It would be enjoyable, watching her in a debate with TFG.

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  3. James Joyner says:

    Indeed, If her goal is to try and maximize political damage against Trump and prevent him from reaching the White House again (and I think it is) then her best course of action is to run in the GOP primary with the express purpose of being in the mix to directly confront Trump via her campaign and on the debate stage.

    While that’s right, it would also have the perverse effect of siphoning votes from any sane Republican alternative. I’m not sure who that might be, alas. I don’t see a Larry Hogan or John Kasich as a credible primary challenger.

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  4. gVOR08 says:

    That means if she did run she would be an oddity: someone specifically running for a reason other than winning

    Lots of people do that every four years. Apparently running for prez pays well. It also builds visibility and contacts for future runs. Liz is 56, young by prez aspirant standards. Her goal could be ’28, or beyond. In any case, she no longer has to pretend to live in Wyoming. So maybe senator from VA. She and her hubby are rich, no need to take the first job offer.

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  5. Scott F. says:

    Asked if she plans to run for president, she first deflected and argued that the GOP needs to be taken in a different direction. “We’ve now got one major political party, my party…

    I believe that “my party” there is all the indication we need to dismiss all speculation about a third party or independent run by Cheney. Liz is still a party-over-country partisan at heart, while she (and her parents) see the GOP as their family business. And the Cheney’s are all-in on the establishment Republican anti-majoritarianism project, so I don’t think she is against authoritarianism as much as she is against Trump as The Authority.

    If she runs (and I agree with the first things first logic), she will be running to damage Trump and to reduce the hold of Trumpism in the GOP. (I could see her running against DeSantis knowing she has little chance of winning, as well.)

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  6. Scott F. says:

    BTW, someone specifically running for a reason other than winning isn’t all that odd. Exhibit A: Andrew Chang. Exhibit B: Marianne Williamson. Maybe neither of them were smart enough to know they couldn’t win, but they both were running to sell their ideas. There’s a market for some really wacky sh!t.

  7. James Joyner says:

    @charon: Yes. And I was reading earlier in the week that some state parties reserve the right to refuse to put people they disapprove of on the ballot at all.

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  8. Scott Z says:

    @Scott F.: I think that’s Andrew Yang.

  9. @James Joyner:

    from any sane Republican alternative

    Yeah, I don’t think there is going to be one of those.

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  10. @charon:

    Possible RNC precondition for participating in debates is to require a pledge to endorse the party’s eventual selection – ploy to keep Liz out of the debates.

    But how does one enforce such a thing?

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  11. @James Joyner: It is possible that state parties would seek to exclude her from the ballot. But I would note that a lot of primary campaigning takes place well before candidates are officially on ballots.

  12. @gVOR08:

    Lots of people do that every four years. Apparently running for prez pays well. It also builds visibility and contacts for future runs.

    Fair enough. But I think you understand my point.

  13. charon says:

    @Scott F.:

    Did you mean Andrew Yang. His supporters look like Republican ratfuckers, which points to the likely impact of his candidacy,

    From Charlie Sykes newsletter:

    Predictions are always risky, but I think it is safe to say that Brave Sir Donald will never under any circumstances get on a debate stage with Liz Cheney.

    Reports Ron Brownstein in the Atlantic: “The general feeling among Republicans I spoke with this week is that the RNC would go to almost absurd lengths to avoid allowing Cheney to appear on the same debate stage as Trump.”

    Well, yes. And the key words here are “absurd lengths.”

    Let’s break out the popcorn for a moment to imagine the mind of RNC Chairwoman Ronna [Romney] McDaniel circa 2024, as she struggles to shield, coddle, appease, and protect the Orange God King from his 5’3” nemesis.

    It’s not that hard, since [Romney] McDaniel has a track record. It’s not beyond her to cancel primaries and caucuses, or even scrap the party’s platform altogether.

    So a debate — an actual face to face confrontation between the disgraced, twice impeached, defeated, chronically lying narcissist and his most loathed antagonist — is not going to happen.

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  14. charon says:
  15. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Sleeping Dog: is right: the GOP can easily keep her out of debates.

    Cheney should run as an independent, but only in a few states. That way she can deploy presumably limited resources to maximum effect. If she can siphon off 5% of the Republican vote in Wisconsin, Arizona or Florida, that’s the ball game.

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  16. CSK says:

    Trump is far too cowardly ever to get on a debate stage with Cheney.

  17. MarkedMan says:

    If Cheney’s goal stays focused on denying Trump the nom, I can think of one possibility so far out it enters the fantasy world: Cheney’s backers start a third party called “The Real Republican Party” (or the equivalent that can survive the lawsuits) and, rather than try to register in 50 states, focuses on the few where there are a significant number of non-Trump Republicans. She won’t win, but might deny enough state wins early in the process to tip the scales towards some other candidate. It would be a way of going third party without completely going third party, allowing a route back into the Republican fold.

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  18. MarkedMan says:

    @Michael Reynolds: I see you got there first

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  19. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Scott F.:

    Liz is still a party-over-country partisan at heart, while she (and her parents) see the GOP as their family business. And the Cheney’s are all-in on the establishment Republican anti-majoritarianism project, so I don’t think she is against authoritarianism as much as she is against Trump as The Authority. [emphasis added]

    Yes. The change is that she’s no longer one of the “cool kids.” On the positive side, though it’s certainly disappointing to lose the slot, it went to a loyalist who worked on her Senate campaign, so there will undoubtedly be a continuation of the current operations on the ground. The 92% agreement with Republican/FG policy is secure for 2 more years.

    But it is sad when your left with “nothin’, mister, but boring stories of glory days.” I hope she’s got a while before that happens.

    1
  20. Sleeping Dog says:

    @Michael Reynolds:
    @MarkedMan:

    The danger is that she also carries some votes that would have been for the Dem. A third party Cheney candidacy comes with lots of risk for Dems. It’s better she isn’t on the ballot in Nov 24 and those FG hating Rs either vote Dem or leave the line blank.

  21. Scott F. says:

    @charon: Yes, I meant Yang and wasn’t able to edit.

    As to Sykes’ point regarding Ronna McDaniel going to absurd lengths to keep a candidate Cheney away from a candidate Trump, in a battle of wits & will between those two women, I’d put my money on Liz.

    I’d add that the debates aren’t the only attack vector available in a political battle between Cheney and Trump. I’m not so deluded to think that Cheney would beat Trump in a head to head contest for the Republican nomination. But, she would definitely bloody him in front of the general electorate. We’ve already seen what she’s been able to do as a GOP-censured congresswoman on the J6 Select Committee.

    I think people aren’t sufficiently considering how much of Dick Cheney’s ruthlessness is in the genetic make-up of Liz Cheney. Or how disturbed she must feel about the Trump Administration directly following the “Cheney” Administration of GW Bush in the history books that will be written about Republicans in the White House. Or how offensive it must be to her that her political aspirations were ended by the former reality TV star. This is Family to her. This is Personal for her. On the visceral level, she has got to be LIVID.

    I wouldn’t want to meet a pissed-off Liz Cheney in a empty alley, would you?

  22. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    ” to tip the scales towards some other candidate…”

    DeSantis? Ted Cruz? Greg Abbott? Hawley? As our hosts note there isn’t “any sane Republican alternative.” And Cheney isn’t an improvement policy-wise either, for that matter. Republiqans are going to be choosing either FG or FG 2.0. Those are the only likely candidates.

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  23. dazedandconfused says:

    She has acquired a heck if a megaphone, the press is fascinated by her. Perhaps the best way she might employ it would be in the primaries, and by focusing only on the states where a another R nominee candidate is on the cusp of beating Trump. She might be able to swing a close race against him in those places, if only by diverting some of the press’s Trump fixation.

    If she picks her spots she could be effective. It has been said empty podiums waiting for Trump to show up got more airtime than Hillary did in 2016. Cheney might be able to get that kind of attention but she will have to make those special events, I reckon.

    1
  24. Andy says:

    Can we please get through November before talking about 2024? To me, this is the equivalent of Walmart putting out Christmas merchandise in July.

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  25. Gustopher says:

    If she ran as an independent, there is a good chance that she would be shut out of the Presidential debates because of polling minimums.

    She also knows she wouldn’t win.

    I’m thinking a national ad campaign to explicitly encourage people to lie to pollsters to get her into the debates, with a promise to do her best to gut Trump like a fish on national tv. And a debate performance carefully crafted to not draw Democratic votes (she wouldn’t need to do anything but be clear on her policies)

    And the descent of our national politics into reality tv would be complete.

  26. @Andy: On the one hand, fair. On the other, you were warned in the headline.

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  27. Andy says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    I was, but yelling at clouds can sometimes soothe the soul.

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  28. @Andy: Also fair.

  29. charon says:

    https://twitter.com/DPRK_News/status/1559958892225896449

    Daughter of former United States Warlord Dick Cheney deemed insufficiently warlike by voters of war-torn Wyoming province.

    1
  30. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @charon: Darn. I was hoping that it was a real NK source and would link to an item in Rodong Shimbun or something instead of a spoof. 🙁

  31. Gavin says:

    Cmon man.
    The only thing worth watching regarding a Liz Cheney run for President would be Triumph the Insult Comic Dog’s takedown of the sum of self-aggrandizement, never-Trumpers, and sycophants who are both her campaign staff and the only people who would end up voting for her.
    She voted with Trump 93% of the time and voted against 9 of the last 3 Democratic bills.

    1
  32. Ken_L says:

    @charon: Precisely. The Trump RNC will find a way to prevent Cheney appearing in the debates. Red states might even pass special laws preventing her running in their primaries.

  33. Rick Almeida says:

    I’m not sure if this was mentioned upthread; if it was, I’m sorry.

    I read elsewhere this week that one reason why Cheney might run is because in (many/most/all?) jurisdictions, only a declared candidate has standing to challenge the eligibility of other candidates. Running as a 2024 candidate, then, could give Cheney standing to challenge Trump’s ability to run.