Voters just booted Liz Cheney from office -- could she run for president as a Republican? (Analysis)
She hasn't ruled out seeking the White House and has a new anti-Trump group.
The voters of Wyoming on Tuesday delivered a message loud and clear to Liz Cheney: You're fired.
Now, as she closes out her stint in the House as the lone congressperson from the Cowboy State, rumors are that she is onto something bigger. Her spokesperson confirmed to ABC News on Wednesday that she plans to launch a group to fight Donald Trump's potential 2024 presidential bid.
She also hasn't ruled out a run for president herself -- but such ambitions beg the question: Who among Republicans would support her?
Likely not the rank-and-file GOP who feel magnetized to the former president.
There's no more prominent anti-Trump Republican than Cheney, principally due to her role as vice-chair of the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection. Even as she conceded on Tuesday night to her Trump-backed challenger, Harriet Hageman, she said she was not giving up denouncing Trump for "his ongoing efforts to unravel our democratic system and attack the foundations of our republic."
"No House seat, no office in this land, is more important than the principles that we are all sworn to protect," Cheney said. "And I well understood the potential political consequences of abiding by my duty."
As Cheney weighs her next move, she finds herself in an electoral bind: with one of the most conservative voting records in Congress, but no conservative base.
"After she jumped in on the Jan. 6 thing, and she jumped in on [Trump's second] impeachment, she was nowhere to be found. She wasn't meeting with the people. She doesn't care about us," one Wyoming voter, Myrna Burgess, told ABC News before the primary.
While residents like Burgess called Cheney's views a betrayal -- "tone-deaf to even listening to us," Burgess said -- Hageman, her opponent, also highlighted how much more active she was campaigning across the vast, sparsely populated state. That marked a change from Cheney's past, when some allies described her as attentive to local issues. (Her supporters say her campaign events this cycle were curtailed for her safety, given pro-Trump backlash: "a crying shame," one surrogate told ABC News.)
And for all the chatter of crossover bipartisan appeal -- that local Democrats would flock to her, given Wyoming's lenient rules around changing party affiliations -- the primary did not bear that out: Cheney earned only about 50,000 votes total and trailed Hageman by almost 40 points.
Early Wednesday, hours after her concession speech at a sprawling ranch in Jackson, Cheney announced her plans for the anti-Trump organization to potentially blockade his path back to Pennsylvania Avenue.
"In coming weeks, Liz will be launching an organization to educate the American people about the ongoing threat to our Republic, and to mobilize a unified effort to oppose any Donald Trump campaign for president," Cheney spokesperson Jeremy Adler told ABC News.
That step does nothing to dispel speculation that she'll seek to directly challenge Trump in 2024 by running herself.
But the sheer fact that a Cheney -- someone who carries the political legacy of a former vice president in her last name -- can't find space as an anti-Trump conservative within her own party raises real questions on how she could break through in a larger playing field of potential candidates who have no problem pledging loyalty to the former president and his debunked claims that his election was stolen.
Not to mention how Cheney's defeat continues to spell out this grim writing on the wall: All but two of the 10 House Republicans who voted for Trump's impeachment last year lost their primaries or opted not to run for reelection altogether.
Like Cheney, Washington Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, Michigan Rep. Peter Meijer and South Carolina Rep. Tom Rice were all defeated by Trump-endorsed opponents this cycle.
If Cheney continues crusading ardently against Trump -- is that enough for her to break out of a likely crowded 2024 pack?
Casting a potential candidate-Trump aside, consider Cheney among the rumored hopefuls. There's little doubt that party heir apparent Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, the de facto front-runner in a Trump-less race who campaigns in a similarly pugilistic style, would relish taking Cheney to task for calling him "dangerous" for aligning himself so closely with MAGA-ism, a sentiment that many Republican voters support.
She'd also likely face a serious political salvo from other potential candidates like the Trump-loyal Sens. Tom Cotton, Josh Hawley and Tim Scott.
Being a martyr for a cause is not the worst campaign tactic. Cheney's commitment to her principles has ensured a national platform and millions in fundraising, even as it deprived her of political power.
The thing is, there's already a decent bench of Trump-orbit defectors for Republican voters to consider. Conceivably the most rollicking political divorce was that of former Vice President Mike Pence, who seems to be plotting an announcement of his own, releasing his own platform for the GOP and making appearances in key battlegrounds.
Pence, like Cheney, boasts strong conservative legislative credentials -- plus a stint in the White House this Cheney will struggle to match. It's also possible that former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley occupies the "not so MAGA" lane if she runs, too.
As difficult as it is to imagine Cheney capturing any significant part of the GOP electorate, it's even more head-spinning to think she would switch parties and align herself with Democrats, as some are suggesting.
More likely is some sort of independent bid -- though, in that case, Cheney may find herself in even more of a vacuum then than the one that greeted her Tuesday night.