Cheyenne attorney Harriet Hageman. (Rhianna Gelhart/ Wyoming Tribune Eagle/Wyoming News Exchange)

I guess we can all go home now.

Donald Trump has endorsed Harriet Hageman, the third-place finisher in the last GOP gubernatorial primary, as his pick to beat “warmonger and disloyal Republican” Liz Cheney.

The former president already declared that he wants only one candidate to run against the three-term congresswoman, who dared to cast a vote to impeach him. A larger field could split the vote, he reasoned, and give Cheney a viable chance to win the nomination.

This script — let’s call it “The Sermon on Mar-a-Lago” — was written in Florida and tweeted to Wyoming.

On cue, two candidates — Cheyenne attorney Darin Smith and Sheridan County Republican Chairman Bryan Miller— immediately dropped out. A third, state Rep. Chuck Gray of Casper, followed suit a few days later.

But neither Smith nor Miller would have taken home more than a very thin slice of the proverbial electoral pie. Gray’s campaign, financed almost entirely by himself and his daddy, was going nowhere.

The national media, hungry for a juicy Cheney-Trump story, has treated his endorsement of Hageman as game, set, match. Politico addressed Cheney’s “grim chances” and speculated that now she’ll likely drop out of the race.

I was interviewed by an astute political pundit in Washington who was ready to write Cheney’s obituary. She’s also heard that Cheney would skip the election — after all, it’s just Wyoming! — and opt to add to her mountain of campaign cash for a 2024 presidential bid against Trump.

Far removed from the Equality State, it may make sense at this premature stage to crown Hageman the victor. Wyoming voters love Trump, giving him 70% of the vote in 2020. If he hand-picks somebody, won’t his followers obey his command?

But I’d advise Hageman’s backers not to pop the champagne corks just yet. For starters, a Hageman campaign didn’t even exist publicly until she announced on the day Trump endorsed her. It’s still 11 months until the GOP primary.

You can’t win a race in one day, no matter who says you should.

Cheney is still the person to beat. Let’s not forget that she won her last contest with 69% of the vote. All that support won’t disappear by August 2022. She’s also raised more than $2.8 million, and Hageman is essentially starting from scratch.

U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney talks with U.S. Sen. Cynthia Lummis at the Jackson Hole Airport on Sept. 10, 2021. (Bradly J. Boner/Jackson Hole News&Guide)

Hageman will be able to raise money from far-right political action committees, but if she expects Trump to actually pony up some of his own dough to help her, she’s dreaming. 

Trump, who came to power as a political outsider, made the safest pick possible in Hageman. Politically, except for the impeachment vote, the conservative lawyer from Cheyenne is the spitting image of Cheney.

Hageman even worked on Cheney’s aborted senatorial campaign in 2013. Challenging four-term incumbent Sen. Mike Enzi was a misguided effort even before she racked up embarrassing gaffes like buying an in-state fishing license while still officially residing in Virginia. Anglers are still angry about that one.

Hageman didn’t sign on for Cheney’s successful 2016 U.S. House race, but she donated money to it. But when Cheney started to cross Trump, Hageman parted company.

Hageman hasn’t always been in Trump’s camp, either. At the 2016 GOP National Convention, she cast her vote for Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas).

In his endorsement announcement, Trump called Cheney “the Democrats’ number-one provider of soundbites.”

She fired back on Twitter: “Here’s a sound bite for you: Bring it.” Does that sound like a candidate ready to cut and run?

Cheney will never let Trump dictate her race, especially since his extreme-right cult in the U.S. House removed her as Republican Conference chair. Finding herself with some free time on her hands, she accepted a new, more impactful role as vice chairman of the bipartisan committee to hold Trump accountable for inciting the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol.

A lot can happen to diminish the former president in the eyes of Wyoming voters, some of whom have likely tired of his “stop the steal” whining when it’s been established he lost to President Joe Biden fair and square.

Ironically, the most “Trumpy” candidate in the race is one that Trump didn’t even interview: state Sen. Anthony Bouchard of Cheyenne. He’s a wild card gun-rights advocate who will directly appeal to the disgraced ex-president’s base.

Like Trump, many dismissed Bouchard following his first big brush with scandal — the revelation that when he was 18, he impregnated a 14-year-old girl. Bouchard called it a “Romeo-Juliet” story, and it apparently hasn’t hurt his fundraising. He actually passed it off as a plus to “pro-life” voters, because he married the girl instead of arranging for an abortion.

The Wyoming Democratic Party called Bouchard out for posting an outrageous meme showing an image of Dr. Anthony Fauci superimposed over a noose. “After prosecution, the chair, the gallows, or lethal injection?” Bouchard asked.

Bouchard used his Facebook campaign page to tell Democratic Chairman Joe Barbuto to “GO POUND SAND!” When one commenter objected to his tactics, 15 others rushed to their candidate’s defense. If Trump saw the meme, I’m confident he’d retweet it.

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Like Cheney, Bouchard isn’t going anywhere just because Hageman entered the race. Bouchard’s been busy posting photos of Cheney and Hageman together in happier times. He also rails against vaccine mandates and blasts “Republicans in name only” every chance he gets. It’s a sad commentary on the current state of Wyoming politics that it’s not a bad strategy.

Cheney excels at debating, and I can see her scoring a lot of points against Bouchard, who has shown in the Senate that he can be knocked off his game if he feels attacked. But Hageman, who’s honed her skills by gutting environmental protections in courtroom battles, will be a worthy opponent on any debate stage.

In 2016, when she ran for governor, Hageman was the last to speak at the final debate before the primary. She used her minute to calmly try to pick off three opponents in one fell swoop.

On Foster Friess: “We have a part-time Jackson jet-setter who vowed from the beginning that he was going to spend whatever it takes to buy this race.”

On Mark Gordon, who won the election: “He has never adequately explained why he gave money to Democrats John Kerry and John Edwards while they were running against George W. Bush and our own Dick Cheney.”

On Sam Galeotos: “[He] advocates for a new model of doing business [renewable energy] in Wyoming that undermines our fossil fuels industries on the one hand, while taking money on the other.”

We’ll have plenty of time to examine the issues as they develop. Given the history between Cheney and Hageman, it will be fascinating to see how personal the attacks get. Bouchard, if he goes the distance, could gum up the works by splitting the anti-Cheney vote with Hageman.

And let’s not discount the influence of the Democrats. As extreme right leaders of the Wyoming Republican Party fear, many will likely cross over to vote in the GOP primary. While they may despise just about everything Cheney stands for, many Dems also admire that she voted her conscience to impeach Trump and is still after him.

We’re in for a real barnburner, folks. It could all change on a dime, but right now, with three candidates who truly do not like each other clawing for an advantage, it could be one for the ages in Wyoming.

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. The Wyoming Republican party has become a party of extremists just as the national Republicans have. Romeo Bouchard actively advertised on Facebook that he admired wacko extremist and publicity hound Marjorie Taylor Greene. Hagerman never met an environmental regulation that she thought acceptable and is willing to kiss up to Trump to obtain office. Cheney, even though she is often wrong about policy, spoke the truth about Trump organizing and deploying the seditious and criminal January 6 riot at the Capitol, something the other candidates are not willing to do. It was that truth-telling that caused her fall from republican grace. The current Wyoming Republican Party would rather have Trump than truth. That situation is both pathetic and dangerous to the Republic.

  2. This just in: Cheney (R-Virginia) has reversed herself and is now right on one other issue: gay marriage. (We in Wyoming, with our frontier “live and let live” attitude, should always have selected representatives who supported this; it’s the Wyoming Way.) But this change in attitude was due to family pressure, not the will of voters. She listens to her devious dad, not the citizens of Wyoming.

    Still hoping for a Republican candidate to arise who actually represents our state’s interests.

  3. I see where Harriet Hegeman has said that Trump was the greatest President of her lifetime. She must surely has a high opinion of Jefferson Davis also.

  4. Why are the Republicans so incapable of fielding a candidate who actually represents Wyoming values? All three of the candidates mentioned in this article are sops to a national political party that doesn’t care about our state and doesn’t represent or reflect the Wyoming way. Cheney would have 100% job security had she not crossed the national party – which demands absolute obedience and conformity – on a SINGLE issue, one on which she just happened to be right! I’d be glad to vote for a reasonable candidate, regardless of party, who was truthful, compassionate, and grounded in reality and did not favor outside interests over ours. Can the Republicans do this? Or has their party gone so far off the deep end that they could never support one?

  5. It would be truly amusing to imagine the devoted & wacko (D)’s of WY voting for heartless Dick Cheney’s Little Girl!

    1. When it comes to doing the wrong thing… there is one Party ruling this country.
      Anyone who cares about honor or justice is an outsider to be crushed.
      Sad to say I hold little hope for a bright future unless a lot of people go to jail.

  6. Interesting that George W. Bush’s upcoming Dallas fundraiser for Cheney was not even mentioned. With his continued endorsement, unethical crossover Dems will be, in effect, voting for another president they despised in order to support Cheney.

    Other aspects of Cheney are also never mentioned by “the duck”, such as that Cheney’s “mountain of campaign cash” comes from out of state. Only a little over $100k actually came from WY, and most of it came from the DC area according to opensecrets.org.

    Provided there is election integrity, it will be the Wyoming voters who decide her fate, despite the best efforts of the DC swamp, the big-monied establishment, and the corporate media and their propagandists.

    “Let’s not forget that she won her last contest with 69% of the vote.”

    Let’s also not forget that the last “contest” was hardly that, as she did not have a formidable opponent. And this win was before she defied her leadership, her party, and most importantly, her constituents (whom she she apparently cares little enough about to even return to Wyoming to address).

    Lastly, let’s not forget that “the duck” quaked confidently about other cockamamie predictions when he was busy stumping for Clinton:

    “Wyomingites will definitely see changes in their lives if Trump is inaugurated as the 45th president of the United States next January, and it won’t be for the better.”

    This “definitely” did not come to fruition . . . .

  7. So glad you could clear it up for us that Mr. Trump can’t vote in Wyoming. If your left wings readers didn’t understand that, it is good for you to do I guess. But you should also remind everyone that the monied easterners pouring their wealth into Ms. Cheney’s campaign can’t vote here either. Now everyone can be clear.

  8. Another entertaining departure from reality.
    Gotta say thank you for these opinion pieces.
    A few tips for leftist readers…
    No one is harder on Trump than those who voted for him.
    He made mistakes and he has been booed for them.
    The leftist media won’t show you that. They are the “Cult”.
    Trump knew the Democrats would cheat in the election.
    He assumed that Republican politicians weren’t just as dirty as Democrats.
    They are.
    Trump failed to empty the executive branch of holdovers from the last 4 administrations.
    This was a Horrible failure of leadership. Career criminals were free to sabotage him.
    Trump approved “Operation Warp Speed”.
    He should have had Fauci fired and investigated Wuhan instead.
    Treatments were already readily available, and people died because doctors were lied to.
    Trump approved the Jan 6 debacle, which turned out to be a set-up by the deep state.
    Trump let Cheney and others sandbag his winter timetable to leave Afghanistan, letting the warmer weather invite disaster as the Taliban could then move freely while Biden pulled the air cover that would have kept them from putting columns of vehicles on the roads. Bay of Pigs, anyone?
    Finally, many of us simply knew that Clinton was a terrible person, so we had voted for Trump for the same reason we had voted for Obama the first time. We wanted change.
    If Democrats actually took the time to understand who conservatives are they would see that there is not the great divide they want to see. If only they can restrain their bad feelings.
    Cheney is scary for many reasons, and I have no trust for Hageman.
    Attorneys generally are akin to catfish.
    My thought is it will be like Romney vs Obama, I’ll have to toss a coin again. Oh Well.

    1. What will make you let go of your false beliefs?

      There was no deep state involvement in chrump’s insurrection.

      There was no stealing of the election.

      Chrump needed no help sabotaging his presidency. He did that himself.

      You might have to leave your conspiracy laden honey holes to find facts. As I said in another post. I don’t know if you’re STILL being ignorant on purpose or if you just enjoy being a troll. Either way, it’s obvious that you are not as rational as you claim to be.

          1. “In an Empire of Lies, Telling the Truth is a Rebellious Act.”
            Orwell predicted all of this. So did Von Mises, and Burgess, Huxley and many others.
            Good luck to you. Nothing is as it appears.

  9. The temptation to cross over in the primary just to stick it to Trump is strong. But even if a broken clock is right twice a day, one good decision is not enough reason to sully my vote by giving it to a woman who has consistently been wrong about everything else (no Miz Cheny history will never validate the war in Iran). In the end the only solution for Dems is to find a good candidate and hope for the best. Also, we can pop lots of corn to watch for the bound to be entertaining Cage Match,

    1. Ray Olson says: “one good decision is not enough reason to sully my vote by giving it to… Cheny (sic) … the only solution for Dems is to find a good candidate and hope for the best.”

      I disagree. Dems have been “hoping for the best” for decades and as a strategy it isn’t panning out – at all.

      All Dems should cross over in the primary, hold their noses, and vote for Cheney just to weaken Trump and his dastardly movement to ruin our country.

      If we don’t save our democracy, who we voted for won’t matter at all.