Why would former Rep. Liz Cheney run for president? Is she nuts? Is she trying to sell a book? Why would a Republican whose last election was losing a state primary by 37 points think she should now seek the highest office in the land? Why would a politician hated by most of her own party and used by the other party simply to attack her colleagues think she could bring 80 million Americans together behind a Cheney candidacy?
Who knows? Nevertheless, Cheney, in the preferred political style, is not “ruling out” a run in 2024. It would be a third-party effort, of course, because neither Republicans nor Democrats would have her as a candidate. And it would be focused entirely, 100%, on stopping former President Donald Trump. “Several years ago, I would not have contemplated a third-party run,” Cheney told the Washington Post. But now, she continued, “I happen to think democracy is at risk at home, obviously, as a result of Donald Trump’s continued grip on the Republican Party, and I think democracy is at risk internationally as well.”
Cheney told the Post that she will decide whether or not to run “in the next few months.” Whatever her answer, it will be all about Trump. “We face threats that could be existential to the United States and we need a candidate who is going to be able to deal with and address and confront all of those challenges. That will all be part of my calculation as we go into the early months of 2024.”
Cheney, of course, is a politician without a party. She broke with Republicans when she agreed to become part of the House Jan. 6 committee’s appallingly one-sided investigation of Trump. The committee was picked by then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and Cheney and then-Rep. Adam Kinzinger agreed to march in lockstep with Democrats. Their presence allowed Pelosi and the media to call the committee “bipartisan” when all the members, in public, literally agreed with each other on everything. They all played their parts in the Democratic showrunner’s production. The Capitol riot is an entirely fitting subject for investigation, but there should never be another committee structured and run like the J6 Committee.
Cheney had no future with the Republican Party after that. But Democrats don’t want her, either. Remember that in the first two years of Trump’s presidency, Cheney voted along with the Trump position 95.8% of the time, and in the last two years, she voted with Trump 92.8% of the time, according to analyses by FiveThirtyEight. No Democrat could ever accept such a record in a candidate for national office.
The fact is, Democrats used Cheney as a Republican who would attack Trump. In Cheney’s new book, there is a story in which she learned that when she was being considered for the J6 committee, some Pelosi staff members showed Pelosi a list of the 10 worst things Cheney had ever said about Pelosi. The speaker just handed the paper back to her staff. “Why are you wasting my time with things that don’t matter?” Pelosi said, according to the book.
Isn’t that nice! Pelosi set aside her personal feelings to recruit a Republican willing to savage Trump precisely as Pelosi wished! It was a very Washington moment, but Cheney appears to have been touched.
Now Democrats are back to eyeing Cheney warily, in no small part because they believe an independent run, even by someone as unpopular as Cheney, would take votes away from President Joe Biden in the general election. They’re right. A Cheney candidacy would be exclusively anti-Trump, as will Biden’s candidacy. Why give voters a choice in anti-Trump candidates? By siphoning off even a few anti-Trump votes, Cheney would probably help the former president.
But first, Cheney has a book to sell. That is why she is popping up on television these days. The book is “Oath and Honor: A Memoir and a Warning,” her story of life opposing Trump. At the moment this is written (noon on Dec. 5), the book is No. 1 on Amazon. Good sales and lots of friendly interviews will surely nudge Cheney in the direction of running, at least until she realizes that all those Democrats and Never Trumpers who cheer her attacks on Trump don’t necessarily want her to be president of the United States.