Although Liz Cheney left the senate race long before any meaningful poll could have predicted the outcome of her challenge to Mike Enzi, reactions among Wyoming Republicans to her decision to throw in the towel ranged from glee to relief. The one exception to the celebration may have been the reaction at the Governor’s residence.
Matt Mead did not win the 2010 GOP primary because he was the first choice of Republicans. He wasn’t. He won because several thousand Wyoming Democrats changed their party registration and crossed over to vote for him in order to prevent the nomination of former state representative Ron Micheli who was erroneously perceived as farther right than Mead. Estimates of the number of such crossover-voters range as high as 10,000.
Even so, 71% of those voting in the 2010 Republican primary favored a candidate other than the eventual governor. Though he spent nearly a million of his own dollars, Mead won by a single percentage point over the second place Rita Meyer, the former State Auditor. Mead wouldn’t have won in the absence of so many Democratic votes.
With the prospect of an Enzi-Cheney race for the US Senate, there was a strong likelihood that thousands of Democrats would once again crossover to prevent the spawn of Dick Cheney from being nominated. The opportunity to get some measure of revenge for Dick Cheney’s destructive vice-presidency would have proved too inviting. Undoubtedly Democrats would have relished an opportunity to visit the sins of the father on the daughter and her ill-advised candidacy.
Had Democrats crossed over to vote for Mike Enzi, they could have been expected, as long as they were on that side of the ballot, to also vote against tea party favorite Cindy Hill, thus saving Mead’s hide once again.
Poof! Just like that the motivation is gone. With Cheney off the 2014 ballot and Mead having proved to be no less far-right than the candidate feared by moderates in 2010, Democrats will be significantly more likely to focus on the way in which this governor has cow-towed to the right on Medicaid expansion, his alignment with ALEC, the extent to which he has protected the frackers from the fracked, and his otherwise nonexistent agenda. Democrats will be unlikely to save the GOP from itself this go-around.
The irony was not lost on anyone that Cheney pulled out of the race on the very same day the legislature opened hearings it hopes will persuade the public that all the money they have spent trying to discredit Mead’s opponent was actually worth it. As thin as the evidence appears, it’s easy to argue that this investigation was necessitated not so much by Hill’s wrongdoing as by the fact that she announced so early her intent to run against Mead.
The legislature’s leadership has been uncharacteristically ham-handed with the entire Cindy Hill controversy. They sought a partisan victory over the public interest, happily working for her election over Mike Massie, a far more qualified Democratic candidate. When she proved she wasn’t one of the GOBs (good old boys), the GOP quickly turned on her, accepting no responsibility for her election as they proved incapable of reasoning with her.
To compound the problem, they greatly underestimated Cindy Hill. Say what you will, she is one tough cookie. She has made mistakes. Talk of impeachment was designed to intimidate her. Have no doubt, the threat would have caused most politicians to question themselves and back off. She won’t be intimidated.
Cindy Hill is tougher than those with whom the good old boys are generally accustomed to dealing. She is tougher than those who are now going after her. She will survive to make their life very difficult during this primary campaign.
So in the end, the Wyoming Republican party will go into this campaign badly divided, with the establishment of the party giving good reason to the insurrectionists to work even harder, and with no hope that Democrats will again ride to the rescue.