Liz Cheney to challenge Enzi for GOP Senate nomination

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By Michael O'Brien

Liz Cheney, the daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, will challenge veteran Sen. Mike Enzi in a blockbuster battle for the Republican Senate nomination in Wyoming next year.

Cheney will wage a primary bid against Enzi, who was first elected in 1996 and is the 11th-most senior Republican in the Senate. She announced her intention to run in a web video released Tuesday afternoon by her campaign.

Her video made no mention of Enzi beyond citing her belief that it is time for a "new generation of leaders to step up to the plate." 

News that Enzi would seek re-election was first reported by the Associated Press; Cheney's announcement came just minutes later, reflecting what could become one of the most aggressive and bitter primary fights of the 2014 campaign season.

Speaking to reporters on Capitol Hill, Enzi said that Cheney had told him that she didn't intend to run if he decided to seek re-election. 

"I thought we were friends," he said.

Cheney has been active in Republican politics as a supporter of her father's, and as an official in the State Department under President George W. Bush. Cheney, also like her father, has been an aggressive critic of President Barack Obama.

Enzi has a lifetime rating of 92.73 from the American Conservative Union, indicating a very conservative career track record. Whether he would seek re-election had been the topic of much speculation, especially given the fact that Cheney had been especially public in her exploration of a Senate bid. The 46-year-old Cheney moved her family from Virginia, in suburban Washington, D.C., to Wyoming last year. (Vice President Cheney previously represented Wyoming in Congress.)

Anticipating the showdown, the New York Times reported earlier this month that the prospect of an Enzi-Cheney primary has divided Wyoming Republicans, who are wary of a bruising primary fight.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee, the political organization tasked with electing Republicans to the Senate, said it would support Enzi over Cheney in a primary.

"Our mission is to reelect our incumbents and build a Republican majority," said NRSC spokesman Brad Dayspring.

Wyoming is considered a solidly Republican state, putting the winner of the battle between Cheney and Enzi in a strong position to win the general election. Whether a Democrat steps forward to take advantage of the Republican infighting remains to be seen.

NBC's Kelly O'Donnell contributed to this report.