Aug 4, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Scoop: Republicans' last-minute Cheney lifeline

Liz Cheney

Photo: Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A handful of Republican operatives are quietly mounting a last-ditch effort to rescue Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) from a Trump-backed primary challenge, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: The previously unreported effort shows how some Republicans are trying to surreptitiously undercut the former president's revenge campaign, which has so far claimed the political lives of a significant chunk of GOP critics.

  • Cheney — the vice chair of the House Jan. 6 committee — could be the next casualty. She's facing tough odds in her primary fight this month against Trump-backed challenger Harriet Hageman.

Driving the news: Involved in the effort are Jeff Larson, the chairman of Republican research firm America Rising and a longtime Cheney backer, and Julia Griswold Dailer, a former Trump White House and inauguration committee aide.

  • Their strategy is two-pronged: Persuade Democrats to cross the aisle and back the Wyoming Republican in this month's open primary, and dent her Trump-endorsed challenger by portraying her as insufficiently loyal to the former president.

What's happening: Two seemingly unrelated political groups recently popped up to try to beat back Hageman's challenge.

The intrigue: Tex McBride, a Wyoming rancher who leads WDFD, told Axios that Larson recruited him for that role.

  • "They needed somebody that ... has a voice in the state rather than just trying to bring in someone from the outside who nobody knows or trusts," McBride said in an interview.
  • "My involvement is really just to put people in touch with each other and they go do their own deal, and help raise some money, but that's the extent of it," Larson told Axios.

Federal Communications Commission filings list Griswold Dailer as WDFD's campaign manager. Her phone number is listed in advertising disclosures for both WDFD's and CFSA's Facebook ads.

  • A source involved in the campaign told Axios that Griswold Dailer is "running the show" for the umbrella effort.
  • She did not respond to multiple inquiries about the campaign and her role in it.

Digital and TV ads run by the two groups hit the same issue: Hageman's supposed legal work to divert Colorado River water from Wyoming.

  • Cheney's campaign has run similar ads on the allegations, which Hageman disputes.
  • WDFD and CFSA also share a treasurer and use the same digital and marketing vendors, according to Federal Election Commission records and a source code on their websites.

By the numbers: WDFD has reported spending $188,428 in support of Cheney since last month, making it the fourth-largest independent spender in the Wyoming primary race — and the top one backing Cheney.

  • CFSA has spent another $47,108 attacking Hageman, according to FEC records.
  • But far more has been spent attacking Cheney and boosting her rivals.
  • The top group in the race, Wyoming Values, has received $500,000 from Trump's leadership PAC and spent more than $800,000 opposing Cheney and supporting Hageman.
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