State Sen. Anthony Bouchard (R-Cheyenne) gave us a preview on Saturday of the stump speech he’ll likely regurgitate across Wyoming over the next 16 months as he tries to unseat U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney in the Republican primary.

The fact that Bouchard delivered the broadside in Florida at an “America First Rally,” and not Wyoming, is telling. It’s clear that the Equality State, like never before, has a race that will be under the national microscope.

It promises to be a colorful contest, if a bit corny. “I’m a septic tank pumper, I service septic tanks,” Bouchard said, pausing for some laughter before delivering the punch line. “And I say you need a professional to drain the swamp.” 

Lighter moments aside, Bouchard painted himself as the little guy who’s not afraid to take on Cheney and the party’s establishment. Her vote to impeach former President Donald Trump for his role in the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection left Cheney vulnerable to bitter attacks from the party’s extreme right.

In the primary, Bouchard and another state legislator, Rep. Chuck Gray (R-Casper), will try to ride the wave of Trumpian enmity against the old-school Wyoming Republican. 

Bouchard hammers Cheney daily on social media. He claimed she’s “the most liberal Republican representative Wyoming has ever sent to D.C.” Taking his cue from Trump, Bouchard calls her “Crazy Liz Cheney.”

But attacks on Cheney’s conservative bona fides, or even her stance on Trump’s policies, all ring hollow. During her time as a Fox News commentator, Cheney was one of former President Barack Obama’s fiercest critics. You can’t endorse waterboarding enemies and keeping American troops in the Middle East forever and be a liberal.

According to the political-data-analysis website FiveThirtyEight, Cheney voted with Trump’s position 93% of the time. That’s eight points higher than Trump acolyte Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Florida), who traveled to Cheyenne and blasted her at a rally on the Capitol’s front steps.

At the end of 2020, Cheney’s bid for a fourth term looked like a breeze. There were few safer seats in Congress than the lone representative of red state Wyoming, which voted 70% for Trump. Cheney received 69% of the vote in last year’s general election.

But after Cheney uttered her famous declaration — “There has never been a greater betrayal by a president of the United States of his office and his oath to the Constitution” — the rebuke by the Wyoming Republican Party was swift and complete. It voted to censure Cheney and called for her immediate resignation.

Cheney brushed off the censure and refused to meet with state party leaders, just as she survived a vote of the House Republican Conference to remove her as chairwoman. Cheney isn’t backing down to anyone in Wyoming or Washington.

She’s also done with Trump. “I don’t believe that he should be playing a role in the future of the party or the country,” Cheney said at a House leadership news conference.

I don’t think for a second that Cheney would have moved all in on impeachment if she wasn’t confident in her ability to help take her party back from the QAnon crazies and Trump cultists and lead it toward traditional conservatism. A lot of moderate Republicans are counting on it, too.

In the apparent battle for the heart and soul of the Republican Party, national political pundits consider Wyoming and the GOP congressional primary ground zero. The New York Times Magazine titled its April 22nd profile “Cheney vs. MAGA.” The subhead asserted that “The Wyoming congresswoman challenged Republicans to turn away from Trump after Jan. 6. Instead, they turned away from her.”

For his part, Bouchard is playing to what the candidate hopes will be the rage still burning against Cheney. He needs that intra-party divide, for both campaign funds and votes. Like the Wyoming GOP’s far-right leadership, he rails against “Republicans in name only.”

“My fight has been with the RINOs from day one,” Bouchard told a boisterous audience of about 300 in Vero Beach, Florida. “… All of the same things that happen in the big swamp happen in the little swamp. Fight back, get involved, and let’s get rid of Liz Cheney.”   

Far from taking a financial hit for her impeachment vote, Cheney’s fundraising is better than ever. She hauled in more than $1.5 million during the first quarter of 2021, a new personal record. Corporate America is coming out huge for Cheney, with political action committees for Google, Toyota, Wal-Mart and GM among her biggest donors.

More than a year before the filing date for the primary, she’s already raised more than half what she did in her 2020 race. If anything is going to stop Cheney, it won’t be a lack of funds.

Bouchard bragged to Floridians that he’s raised more than $400,000 in the past month, two-thirds of it in small donations from all 50 states. He plans to return to the Sunshine State for fundraisers. Bouchard could likely make the political-chicken-dinner circuit all across the country to fill up his coffers.

The Federal Elections Commission reported Gray raised $173,000, though all but $40,000 came from the candidate’s own pockets. He’ll need to step up the fundraising if he hopes to be in contention for long.

The three candidates are mounting far different campaigns in the early stages.

On her “Cheney for Wyoming” campaign website, the congresswoman features a photo of her sitting on a fence, surrounded by her adoring husband, three daughters, two sons and three horses. It’s the all-American family, at home in Wilson, far from their previous digs in northern Virginia. There is no mention of her opponents.

Four full screens detail Cheney’s congressional accomplishments. The first section is devoted to a conservative classic: “ending federal overreach and restoring local control to Wyoming.”

Gray’s website shows the radio talk show host in a static photo, wearing a sports jacket but no tie. In the background, fluid images of iconic Wyoming scenes drift by: the Tetons, Devils Tower, an oil rig, a herd of buffalo and the state flag.

Gray criticizes Cheney, and even accuses her of “betraying Wyoming again!” But for sheer vitriol and intensity, no one matches Bouchard as he roars from the campaign starting gate.

Subtlety is not Bouchard’s forte. A photo of Cheney on his Campaign Facebook page is shown above the word “Democrat,” with the “o” replaced by a hammer and sickle. “Trump Hating political group that spent $82 million in the last election cycle — founded by a ‘registered Democrat’ — cheered on Liz Cheney for impeachment. I’m gonna keep reminding folks of how the Lizard-Swamp-Allies operate!” claims the post.

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Trump is expected to endorse a Cheney challenger soon, with the apparent hope that his Wyoming base will coalesce behind one candidate.

I see a few problems with that as a winning strategy.

First, not all Republicans who might prefer Cheney to Trump are RINOs, and they will resent being denigrated.

Second, for anyone not named Cheney to win, Trump will have to retain his grip on the GOP for another year and a half. That’s an eternity in politics. The former president’s legal and financial problems may force him from his self-appointed role of kingmaker at Mar-a-Lago.

Finally, any challenger will also have to contend with the unlikely support from Wyoming Democrats who admire Cheney’s principled stand against Trump. Trust me, there are many members of the party who abhor Cheney’s politics, but will eagerly become temporary Republicans to vote for her in the primary over someone who’s been anointed by Trump.

Go ahead and call us “DINOs.” We’ll get over it.

Kerry Drake

Veteran Wyoming journalist Kerry Drake has covered Wyoming for more than four decades, previously as a reporter and editor for the Wyoming Tribune-Eagle and Casper Star-Tribune. He lives in Cheyenne and...

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  1. Mind boggling that the self-proclaimed “party of family values” is still standing strong behind the most immoral, corrupt charlatan ever to be elected to the Nation’s highest office. Doubly disappointing when a Representative of your State and party takes a principled stand against the lies, violence and criminal conduct of the former President, only to be driven from her Congressional duties and challenged for her seat. The QAnon party has a problem with the truth.

    And now we learn that a challenger to Ms. Cheney’s seat has admitted to impregnating a 14-year-old girl at the age of 18. Although he glosses over his history with a reference to “Romeo and Juliet,” someone should tell Mr. Bouchard that what he did was statutory rape and a crime. Although he married the girl the following year, they were divorced three years later and she committed suicide at the age of 20. Trump’s sexual escapades pale in comparison.

    So listen up. Joe Biden was elected President in a free and fair election. He is the duly-elected President of the United States, having won both the popular vote and the plurality of votes in the Electoral College. Despite the ludicrous “recounts” and “audits” now being performed, nothing is going to change the outcome of a legitimate election. TRUMP LOST. God willing, the Attorneys General in the State of New York will identify Trump’s criminal actions, prosecute and put him away. Only with the removal of this orange-tinted, cotton-candied haired buffoon can this Country finally come together and start restoring our damaged democracy.

  2. I think it’s very telling that Wyoming RINOs as well as the Demoncrats all over the state of Wyoming are so overwhelmingly supporting Liz Cheney for reelection. If there’s ever been a time to recognize how deep our own swamp in this state is, it’s now when you can see our 180 degree opposite party siding with our RINOs.

    Pay attention and vote many more out of our state offices along with Liz Cheney.

    1. So you covered the trumpy buzzwords of RINO and swamp. But, you forgot fraud, stolen election, and socialist. Maybe you can find a way to inject those into your next chrump endorsed response.

      Cheney is everything that is wrong with politics, but at least she isn’t ignorant enough to jump on board with the standard republican excuses. It’s a shame that more people don’t recognize and appreciate honesty.

  3. Mitt Romney censure failed.
    Liz Cheney censure failed.
    Krysten Semina censure failed.
    I love politics.

  4. Sooo, did he just state that a bunch of Demoncrats ARE going to switch parties for the primary and vote for Lizzard? We really need to fix our voting laws.

    1. No. Switching parties is your right. Exercise it at any time, even if some foolish state tries to buck the constitutional right of assembly. That kind of state law would have a short life. Citation is First Amendment.

      I can’t vote in my home state now, but I can support Liz Cheney’s principled use of the First Amendment to reveal her views of the former traitor in chief.

  5. By reading this article you wouldn’t even think the voters in Wyoming have a say in this upcoming election. Cheney can raise all the money she wants but it don’t change the fact that alot of her base is done with her and the Cheney name.

  6. Liz Cheney is not intimidated by white men who think they have power. She was raised by a white man who really did have power and wielded it. She knows how to intimidate. These guys are dealing with the wrong women. She “ain’t scared of no white guy.” And you can count me as a Democrat who will vote for her in the primary. She upheld her oath of office and her commitment to the Constitution. That’s who we want in Washington, even if I disagree with the majority of her stances.

  7. I would gladly see Liz Cheney be replaced by Bouchard or Grey as they have significantly less ability and power to get things done errr ruined compared to Liz. While I agree with Liz Cheney’s stance on the Constitution and Donald Trump, I believe she did it because she knows more than the all than the Republican Leadership combined as Scalise and McCarthy are pathetic. Meanwhile Liz keeps delivering zingers against liberal democrats on all the affiliates news shows. Bouchard nor Grey will ever be able to build on Dick & Liz’s legacy and she knows it.

    I would also contend she is much more well connected concerning what evidence the DOJ has on one Donald J. Trump and is playing the long game by coming out against Trump now, as he will continue to fade as well as be under indictment. Remember the Cheney family is still connected to a pretty influential news reporter by the name of Pete Williams, who just happens to cover the DOJ for NBC news. I will bet that Cheney knows and will ensure that the drip of negative stories comes out over the next two to four years.

    Liz wants to be President and she needed to separate herself from her major contenders, which included the Seditionists in the Senate and one direct mailer queen Nikki Haley. She accomplished that task.

    Removing Liz from her grasp at the Presidency could be done during the next House race and I would LOVE to see her lose to anyone including Bouchard or Grey, but I fear the moderate Reps and the Dems are so taken in by her one “good” deed that they will return her and set her up to be the first woman President of the USA.

    I kind of love the irony of life as when I was in Ohio in 2000, I became a Republican so I could vote for John McCain in the Ohio primary as I absolutely feared a Bush presidency. I was right but that counts for squat in this world.

    C’mon Wyoming, you put Dick Cheney into power and the world, nor Wyoming was better for it, so do the world a favor and vote for Bouchard or Grey and make the Cheney’s go away.

  8. Yikes, Bouchard sounds like a Matt-Gaetz-mini-me, the screeching, preening banty rooster who came to Wyoming to lambast Liz. If all Bouchard has to offer is negativity and fear, count me out. The nation got a belly full of that over 4 years of the ex-president’s reign.

    The fact that Bouchard goes to rally Florida residents, and not face Wyoming voters, is very telling. Why not just move south where you and Matt can be besties? Liz is right, the GOP has tilted so far to the right that the “boat” is about to do a faceplant on the water. I support her efforts to return to the moderate, middle of American values stance that the GOP used to represent.

    1. Trying to balance your call for less negativity and fear with the incidiary accusations Liz has made since the election, especially “……The President of the United States summoned this mob, assembled the mob, and lit the flame of this attack. Everything that followed was his doing. None of this would have happened without the President…”

      Am I the only one who finds that repugnate, especially with hindsight and the subsequent investigation results?

  9. So… Anthony Bouchard’s day job is a septic tank pumper. I did not know that. It explains nearly everything worth knowing about the guy….