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Liz Cheney

Jan 8, 2014 - By Steven R. Peck

Her short campaign wasn't going well, and there might not be another

Liz Cheney is out of the U.S. Senate race in Wyoming just one week into the year in which the election takes place.

She cited an unspecified health situation within her family as the reason she's quitting her primary election challenge to two-term Sen. Mike Enzi, but her own sickly performance in early Senate polling probably played a role as well.

The truth is, Cheney never caught fire in Wyoming as a candidate. In fact, she never really even got warm.

Despite her family pedigree and supposed political savvy, Cheney's campaign was marked mostly by miscues. She botched her attempt to get a hunting license. She had a tax problem. Her husband had a voter registration problem. She "misspoke" a few times that required extrication. She clashed publicly with her sister. And she had to spend a lot of her time convincing Wyoming voters that she deserved their loyalty considering she had moved to Wyoming from Virginia shortly before announcing her candidacy.

And when she did talk about something other than that, it didn't seem to be about Wyoming, but about Washington.

Reportedly, in one recent poll internally, she trailed Enzi by dozens of percentage points and might even have trailed gadfly cowboy Taylor Haynes -- who hasn't even announced that he is running for Senate.

Given all her name recognition and big spending splash a year before the general election, Cheney simply was not clicking with Wyoming voters. She was not giving them much reason to consider turning the popular, hard-working, well-respected Mike Enzi out of office.

If, as reported, one of the children has been diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes -- a chronic but treatable disease that millions of people live with productively -- one can't help feeling that the condition would have seemed a lot more manageable for the family had those polls showed Cheney leading Enzi by 10 points rather than trailing him by 40.

And so she has found a way to withdraw with honor. expressions of encouragement and good wishes from Republicans for the family in dealing with the health problem likely are accompanied by a bit of relief as well. With a workhorse like Enzi ready to serve another term, Wyoming really didn't need a contentious Republican Senate primary, which is exactly what this would have had to become if Cheney were to stand a chance of winning.

She probably will continue to be a popular rally speaker and TV commentator, but whether Liz Cheney has another statewide political campaign in her future is doubtful now. It is hard to see her mounting an effective campaign against Sen. John Barrasso four years hence, nor does U.S. Rep. Cynthia Lummis seem vulnerable to a challenge from within her own party. There had been talk four years ago about Cheney running for governor. That certainly will not happen this year, and in 2018 it would be crucial to see if voters had come to view her more as a true Wyoming resident and generally were willing to let her often-fumbling bygones be bygones.

All of that, of course, assumes that she even would want to be governor of Wyoming, even would be able to win a primary election, to say nothing of the general, and even would be a resident of Wyoming four years from now.

Running for office can be a tough business. Liz Cheney's entrance to Wyoming politics over the past half year was interesting and attention-getting, but it was far from auspicious otherwise. As a candidate, it may well prove to be the only shot she will get.

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