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Cheney's Jan. 6 committee spotlight burns her in Wyoming primary

Rep. Liz Cheney took on Donald Trump and voted to impeach and investigate him. Back home, polls suggest she's trailing his chosen challenger.
Image: Liz Cheney
Liz Cheney speaks during a business meeting of the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol in Washington, on March 28, 2022.Eric Lee / Bloomberg via Getty Images file

When the House committee investigating the 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol holds its first public hearing Thursday, Rep. Liz Cheney will stand out as the Republican who broke ranks with her party and with former President Donald Trump over his role in inciting the mob.

But that national platform and crusade of hers is contributing to Cheney's undoing with GOP voters at home in Wyoming, according to polls and interviews with state Republicans who say she’s becoming too identified with Washington politics that damage the de facto leader of her own party.

Cheney is trailing her leading GOP primary rival, attorney Harriet Hageman by 28-56 percent, according to a survey chartered by the Hageman-backing super PAC, Wyoming Values, and obtained by NBC News. The survey was conducted by Tony Fabrizio, who also polls for former President Trump. It closely tracks other polls in the state, according to Republican insiders.

“I think the race is kind of getting baked in here against Cheney,” said Republican consultant Bill Cubin. “It wouldn’t be so much that she’s participating in the Jan. 6 Committee — and yes a lot of Republicans are uncomfortable with that — but there’s this feeling she’s not really representing Wyoming anymore.”

Some Cheney supporters privately echo the same sentiment, but her campaign vehemently denies that she’s not home often enough or that she has no way to come back before the Aug. 16 primary.

Travis Deti, executive director of the powerful Wyoming Mining Association, said she has been a friend to the industry and the jobs it brings.

"She and her staff are responsive and accessible, and she has always been there to deliver for us. This is a fact … she has served our industry well," Deti said via text message.

Last week, Cheney released her first major statewide ad buy that tacitly spoke to the challenge by featuring testimonials from everyday Wyomingites touting her candidacy and her home-state bona fides.

The race stands as a measurement of how little Republican voters care about the Jan. 6, 2021 Capitol riot, and it’s also a key test of the power of Trump’s endorsement, which lost some of its luster last month in Georgia. The race is one of the most important to Trump because Cheney became the most outspoken House Republican to call him out and impeach him for inciting the mob, leading his political operation to recruit Hageman.

The Wyoming Values poll, released the day before Thursday’s Jan. 6 Committee’s first public hearing, was conducted last week to measure the impact of a three-week pre-Memorial Day ad buy by the super PAC ahead of Trump’s rally in the state for Hageman.

When Hageman first got in the race, she led by 8 points. Now she's ahead by 28 points, after the ad buy touted Trump’s endorsement of Hageman and framed Cheney as a tool of Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, according to Fabrizio's polls of the race taken six months apart.

Three other Republicans in the race are mired in single digits, one of whom ran an ad recently that bashed Cheney's vote to impeach Trump. The conservative Club for Growth, which also opposes Cheney, ran a commercial that likened her to Trump's 2016 rival, Hillary Clinton.

“Not only is Cheney getting creamed in the ballot, but Wyoming [Republican primary voters] are clear that there is no room for her to get back into this race,” Fabrizio wrote in a memo obtained by NBC News. “A huge 71% majority say they will vote against her, including 66% who will definitely vote against Cheney no matter who she runs against. With only 26% saying they will definitely or probably vote for Cheney, she has hit her ceiling on the ballot.”

The survey did not directly measure attitudes about the Capitol riot, nor did a survey released late last month that was conducted by the Club for Growth and yielded similar numbers to Fabrizio’s survey.

Club for Growth spokesman Joe Kildea said Cheney’s role on the Jan. 6 committee and her strident opposition to Trump — who remains a popular figure in the GOP — is too damaging for her candidacy in a primary like Wyoming’s.

“She's definitely on the wrong side of the party,” Kildea said.