The war between former President Donald Trump and U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney is so intense that I wondered if Harriet Hageman might fade inadvertently into the background at her own rally.

Opinion

The Cheyenne attorney and congressional hopeful dispelled that notion when she addressed a pumped-up crowd of about 10,000 Saturday at Casper’s Ford Events Center before the former president took the stage. After a perfunctory introduction of her life’s accomplishments, Cheney’s main GOP challenger and former political ally got down to business.

In a mere 12 minutes Hageman managed to recite an impressive “greatest hits” list of what the far-right is fed-up with, in order: the federal government, out-of-control spending, Joe Biden, baby formula shortage, gas prices, inflation, the Green New Deal, attacks on fossil fuels, open borders, illegal immigration, human trafficking, fentanyl, critical race theory, transgender female athletes, abortion industry, liberal media, social media, socialism, federal corruption, mask mandates, Anthony Fauci, Democrats, Nancy Pelosi, the Jan. 6 commission and RINOs – “Republicans in name only.”

Whew! These proven winners with the MAGA crowd all played extremely well in Wyoming. Her biggest applause line, however, was reserved for the night’s villain when Hageman dubbed Cheney the biggest RINO in Wyoming and vowed to send her back to Virginia.

I’ll admit to being impressed by Hageman’s dexterity with the red meat — she flung the crowd plenty of what they came to chew on — but I was also amused by a fantastic Freudian slip. Hageman said she earned Trump’s endorsement “because he knows I am that person who will best represent your fallacies – your families – your businesses, and your interests.”

I’ve covered politics so long, I fondly recall when the biggest enemies of Republicans were Democrats like myself. Whether they insulted us as liberals, radicals, leftists or socialists, we took pride in the fact we got under the GOP’s skin.

So it was jarring to hear Trump and nearly every other speaker save their most vicious attacks for Republicans.

“Few members of Congress in history have personally caused more damage and destruction to our republic than the thinking — ridiculous and stupid thinking — of Liz Cheney,” Trump said. “She’s aided and abetted the radical Democrat Party in one of the most unhinged, lawless and dangerous witch hunts of all time: the ‘Unselect Committee on Jan. 6.’”

He was just getting warmed up. Trump, who incited hundreds of supporters to storm the Capitol in his failed attempt to keep Congress from certifying Joe Biden’s victory last year, labeled it “the insurrection hoax.” Just more fake news, folks. Sad.

Trump charged Cheney with perpetrating “the most chilling assault on your civil liberties in generations,” while antifa and Black Lives Matter “can steal money and live in $6 million mansions, and nobody does a damn thing.”

Some politicians try to heal the nation’s wounds, while others stoke the flames of fear at every turn. If there’s one thing his rallies show, it’s that Trump is no healer. 

“A house divided against itself cannot stand,” Abraham Lincoln said of the country’s bitter unrest over slavery that led to the Civil War. But can the party of Lincoln survive in its current divided state, embodied by a Trump-Cheney clash of political titans?

I doubt it. Only one wing of the GOP will be left standing, and there’s no sure winner yet.

When Cheney accepted a “Profile in Courage” award earlier this month from the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation, she recalled JFK said “only a few generations have been granted the role of defending freedom in its hour of maximum danger.”

“Today, that role is ours as we face a threat we have never faced before — a former president attempting to unravel our constitutional republic,” Cheney said. Americans, she noted, have choices to make.

“Will we defend our Constitution? Will we stand for truth? Will we put duty to our oath above partisan politics?” Cheney asked. “Or will we look away from danger, ignore the threat, embrace the lies, and enable the liar?”

Trump called the Wyoming congressional race the most important primary election in the country. Cheney has described it as a battle for the heart and soul of the GOP. It’s nice to see they agree about something. I’ll join them, because neither is overstating the stakes.

I did not brave the crowds in Casper, opting instead to stay in Cheyenne and view Trump’s rally on my computer, tuned into the right-wing Real America’s Voice network. The unabashed fawning over the 45th president — the “correspondents” would lead you to believe he’s still in office — would have made a Fox News host blush.

I’d never watched a Trump rally from start to finish, so I was curious to see if he would maintain the same high energy level that marked his 2016 and 2020 campaigns. Brief news clips from other events around the nation had me believing that his act may be wearing thin, and that some fans had grown weary of his obsession with the 2020 election.

No such fatigue was displayed on the broadcast I tuned into, where Trump looked delighted to be among his people. This was the first rally he’s held in Wyoming — in fact it was the first time he’d been to Wyoming since launching his political career — mainly because he’s never needed to campaign here before. The state gave him his largest margin of victory in both presidential runs.

But if Wyoming didn’t already exist, someone would have had to create it for Trump’s enjoyment. It’s perfect for an ex-president who pretends the election was stolen from him by colluding Democrats and RINOs who abhor the thought of returning him to the White House.

Was there ever a doubt that Trump would venture from the safe confines of Florida’s Mar-a-Lago to take on Wyoming’s congresswoman on her own turf? He strutted into Casper like he owned the place, because he essentially does. 

I lived in the Oil City for two decades, and I know moderate and traditionally conservative Republicans there who cringed at Trump’s visit. But he won over the hearts and minds of many Wyoming residents long ago, and that bond was only strengthened as he promoted Hageman’s candidacy.

Let’s be clear: The Cheyenne attorney made a name for herself in MAGA country by suing the feds over environmental regulations, but she wasn’t a powerhouse political force in Wyoming before Trump hand-picked her to take on Cheney. Hageman finished third in the 2018 Republican primary for governor, her first political race.

Several former Trump staffers are working on Hageman’s campaign, and while she’s not raking in as much cash as Cheney, she’s getting more from Wyoming donors

The rally positioned Hageman well for the race to the Aug. 16 primary. The extreme-right issues she used to rile up Trump’s base were exploited for maximum advantage. Even if Cheney brings in heavyweights like former President George W. Bush and her father, Dick Cheney, a raucous crowd filling the events center isn’t likely to happen.

But don’t sell Cheney short, she’s got a political trick or two tucked up her sleeve, and she’s not afraid to use them.

Anyone who visited the Casper Star-Tribune website on Saturday looking for rally coverage was greeted by a big banner ad with a smiling photo of Cheney and Hageman. It was taken in 2016, when the latter worked for and donated money to the congresswoman’s initial campaign.

There’s also a priceless quote from Hageman about her former pal: “Liz Cheney is a proven, courageous, constitutional conservative.” Then the kicker from Cheney’s campaign, which paid for the spot: “Thanks, Harriet!” 

Game on. It promises to be a wild ride, and I’ll only make one prediction: after the royal reception he received, I’m pretty sure Trump hasn’t made his last trip to Wyoming to roast his chief critic.

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. Rachel Rubino provides a link to Harriet’s speech down below, but there is no reason to watch it because no matter what she says, Harriet Hagemen has decided to sell out our form of government for a treasonous liar. The question we really have to ask is how did we get here?

    To me its pretty clear the rise of Rush Limbaugh and the abortion wars has produced an electorate that will justify any horrific act or person as long as it is done to honor what the Lord commands. Yep the John 3:16 crew is going to give us the horrors prophesied in Revelation because they were saved by the dude that gave the Sermon on the Mount.

    America is powerful but our Democratic Republic is fragile and during my 59 years of life on this Earth, so called sane Republicans rode the wave of Limbaugh and a christian nationalist base to achieve power. Now those sane Republicans are realizing that the inmates are in charge of the asylum.

    I have come to believe that while flawed*, the Constitution and Electoral College, as originally conceived, was the greatest way to set a foundation to run an egalitarian society and it would have worked, if we had kept the Bible Bangers out.

    As I said at the beginning of this analysis, I claimed that Harriet is a traitor to our Constitution. Well tune in on Thursday June 9th at 6 pm MST and find out because it is must see TV.

    https://january6th.house.gov/news/watch-live

    * Slavery ensured that economic interests drove christian religious interpretation to a point where religion justified Slavery in the Antebellum South.

  2. So much hostility here.
    People need to take a walk and feel the sunshine or the rain on their faces.
    Life is still good here in RED Wyoming. The devastation and bad times some of you voted for out of jealousy and hate have only just begun.
    I am sorry that you cannot all control such juvenile feelings. I really am.
    Try and have a better day today. Tomorrow will only be as good as we make it.

  3. Why would anyone support a misogynistic, lying, racist scam artist whose only goal is to feed his ego and hid bank account? I can’t believe that there’s any woman that buys his views. He’s a political pickpocket who gets away with stealing what you think belongs to you.

  4. So many think that Cheney feels no real ties to Wyoming, well, neither does tRump. He was only here to get his ego stroked by the feckless base in Wyoming who are evidently stuck in 2020. Fake news? It’s tRumps whining about the “stolen election”, we are all getting tired of hearing about it. Pull up your big girl pants and move on, if you have any that is.

  5. I don’t think Cheney feels any real ties to Wyoming, she seems to be more of an east coast type & that makes sense because that is pretty much where she grew up while her Dad was involved in politics. I don’t think she feels any connection to the farmers, ranchers, rough necks, equipment operators, fence builders, doctors, nurses, road builders, general workers, etc that make up the population of our state.

    1. Do you think Trump feels any real ties to Wyoming aside from how they might serve his personal agenda? Do you think Trump feels any connection to the farmers, ranchers, rough necks, equipment operators, fence builders, doctors, nurses, road builders, general workers, etc that make up the population of our state? Trump cares nothing about anything except himself

    2. Regardless, she feels a connection to maintaining a civil society and upholding her Constitutional oath. She dismisses lies and believes in the Rule of Law. Pretty basic stuff, but apparently these things are becoming increasingly rare, especially in WY. The prevailing attitude of the state GOP is embarrassing at best, though I fear the consequences are much more serious.

    3. You might be right in saying she feels no connection to the people in wyoming.

      Your lord and savior chrump doesn’t either. But, at least Cheney isn’t hopping on the stolen election lie that chrump’s gullible fanbase swears by. I may not like Cheney’s politics, but honesty should be considered a positive attribute. The right wing whacks enjoy the lies.

    4. I doubt Senator John Barrasso “feels” any real ties to Wyoming, either. He was born and raised in Pennsylvania, attended Georgetown and Yale, was an MD in Connecticut for years before relocating to Wyoming in 1983 to make a golden bone surgeon’s fortune. Barrasso has always been a political creature with national ambitions. Wyoming was is and remains a cheap easily manipulated stepping stone for his professional political career. As for his medical service, the guy hasn’t scrubbed in for years, but he sure does take a lot of taxpayer junkets to grandstand the troops in war zones . Oh if only he’d scrub in to do a little battlefield surgery to give himself some real credibility. Instead, he does free PSA spots on KTWO television to keep his name out there.

      Wyoming voters are so easily fooled. Just dangle a red feathered ” R ” in front of them.

    5. neither did her dad. until now nobody could see his ways. he was cfr or in the council on foreign relations long ago. was responsible for thirty years of wars in the middle east.

  6. My biggest complaint about politicians like Harriet is they know so much about Benedict Donald’s shtick is promoting lies and sewing discord, yet still they go along with him. Senator Barrasso so knows the last election was not stolen but won’t say it in those words. Likewise, the same with Senator Lummis. This makes Liz the only true patriot amongst our federal delegation.

    1. Wow, Mr. Phillips, you really need to do a better job of proofreading your statements before posting. You should have written “damn well” instead of “so much about” and “sowing” instead of “sewing”. And instead of Senator Barrasso “so” knows, it should read Senator Barrasso “also”. Jim, you really should have that first cup of caffeine before commenting.

  7. Thanks Kerry, as always, for your insightful remarks. I’m watching this race with great interest and pulling for Ms. Cheney to win.

  8. When is someone going to explain to the MAGA crowd what happened to the Brown Shirts after the authoritarians came to power in 1933?

    1. Anyone who has taken time to read LESSONS FROM THE EDGE by Marie Yovanovitch, the former ambassador to Ukraine, would think twice about supporting Trump. “RINO” is not a dirty word.