US Representative Liz Cheney (R-WY) speaks to supporters during election night in Jackson, Wyoming on August 16, 2022. (Photo by PATRICK T. FALLON / AFP via Getty Images)
Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney’s dramatic yet wholly unsurprising primary loss on Tuesday has dealt another blow to the small group of House Republicans willing to stand up to former President Donald Trump, all but erasing them from Congress.Cheney was one of just 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump after the Jan. 6 Capitol riot. Her loss to Trump-backed challenger Harriet Hageman on Tuesday, where Cheney received only 29% of the votes cast, means all but two of those House Republicans will be out of power next year.
First came Ohio Republican Rep. Anthony Gonzalez, who opted to announce his retirement last September rather than face what he said would be a “brutally hard primary” against a Trump-backed former White House staffer. He said at the time that Trump was a “cancer on our country.”Then came Illinois Rep. Adam Kinzinger, who faced a brutal one-two: Illinois Democrats carved up his House district for scraps, and the GOP base was so infuriated with him he couldn’t have won a GOP primary in his old seat anyway. Kinzinger announced his retirement last October, pledging to fight a “broader fight nationwide” against Trumpism. He’s pursued that fight as the only other Republican besides Cheney to serve on the House Jan. 6 Select Committee, giving the committee bipartisan legitimacy. But his days in Congress are numbered as well.They were followed by longtime moderate Reps. Fred Upton of Michigan and John Katko of New York, who opted to retire in April rather than face the wrath of the GOP base in redrawn congressional districts.In June, South Carolina Rep. Tom Rice lost his primary to a Trump-endorsed challenger. Michigan Republican Rep. Peter Meijer and Washington Rep. Jaime Herrera-Beutler lost their primaries earlier this month to Trump-backed candidates.
Finally, it was Cheney’s turn.And it’s not just these House members. Nearly three-quarters of the GOP nominees for governor, senator, attorney general and secretary of state in the six key swing states Trump lost by the closest margins have questioned whether President Biden fairly won their state, or outright declared Trump won, according to a VICE News analysis. That includes the entire GOP statewide ticket in the key swing states of Arizona and Michigan.Cheney made it very clear she knew she was going to get walloped in this race. She steadfastly refused to bend to Trump’s will, embracing political martyrdom as she led the GOP charge in Congress to hold Trump responsible for his 2020 coup attempt. “No House seat, no office in this land, is more important than the principles that we are all sworn to protect, and I well understood the potential political consequences of abiding by my duty,” Cheney said in her concession speech Tuesday night.Cheney didn’t temper that tone back home either: One of her final campaign ads featured her father, former Vice President Dick Cheney, calling Trump a “coward” and a “threat to our republic”—not exactly words designed to appeal to the GOP base in the state that gave Trump his largest margin of victory anywhere in the country.The only two House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump and survived their primaries won because of extenuating circumstances. California Republican Rep. David Valadao is a close friend and ally of House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who reportedly begged Trump not to get involved. That allowed Valadao to squeak through with a narrow primary win in June. He faces a competitive race this fall.
And Washington Republican Rep. Dan Newhouse hung on in his August primary because multiple pro-Trump challengers split the right-wing vote, allowing him to eke out a win with just 26% of the all-party vote, with his MAGA challengers pulling more than 50% of the vote.Democrats have also played a role here. Their gerrymander of Kinzinger’s district erased the tiny chance he had of running for reelection, and they spent heavily to boost Meijer’s and Valadao’s hard-line opponents in the hopes of knocking them out in the primary in order to have a better shot at flipping their House districts this fall.In her concession speech Tuesday night, Cheney stated that she’ll do everything she can to stop Trump from returning to power.“Let us resolve that we will stand together—Republicans, Democrats, and independents—against those who would destroy our republic. They are angry and they are determined, but they have not seen anything like the power of Americans united in defense of our Constitution and committed to the cause of freedom. There is no greater power on this earth,” she declared.But her loss—and the decimation of the Republicans who agree with her—show that fight will not come from within the ranks of the GOP.