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The Cheney family feud over same-sex marriage is unlikely to have a lasting, adverse effect on Liz Cheney’s bid for Senate in Wyoming.
After moving her family to the state last year, the larger concern for Cheney is proving her Wyoming roots and making a rational case for the need to replace Sen. Michael B. Enzi, whom Cheney is challenging in the GOP primary.
To be sure, Cheney’s squabble with her sister, who is a lesbian, adds another distraction in an already uphill primary challenge. But in this small state where handshakes go a long way and campaigns usually kick off late, there is still plenty of time before the Aug. 19 primary.
“If the vote were today, everybody knows which way it would go,” said Joe Milczewski, a former campaign manager for Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo. “But the vote’s not today. We’re still nine months to Election Day.”
Cheney’s comments about her opposition to same-sex marriage on “Fox News Sunday” led to a public airing of grievances by her sister, Mary Cheney, and Mary’s wife, Heather Poe, including in an interview with The New York Times.
Vice President Dick Cheney, surely aware of a pro-Enzi super PAC ad targeting his daughter last month for waffling on same-sex marriage, released a statement Monday arguing that Liz Cheney “has always believed in the traditional definition of marriage” and her position shouldn’t be distorted.
The kerfuffle could undoubtedly play into the hands of Enzi allies who question Cheney’s authenticity. But Republican insiders said this week that even if there were any lingering doubt about her position, it’s hardly an issue that moves votes.
“It gets a lot of attention and sucks up a lot of oxygen in the media, but people don’t really vote on it out here,” Milczewski said.
Several state legislators said Wyoming voters are far more interested in hearing Cheney’s argument for why she’ll be a stronger voice for them on Capitol Hill. Since there is little difference between the two candidates on the issues, that’s essentially the argument for Cheney’s candidacy.
Cheney is fighting for the same voters who have sent Enzi to the Senate three times. In the Senate, he has voted with Republicans more than 90 percent of the time in the past 10 years. While he’s shown willingness to compromise, that’s not necessarily a death knell in Wyoming, unlike in some other red states.
“Ms. Cheney, when she started out, criticized [Enzi] for being willing to compromise with the Democrats,” Republican state Sen. Charles Scott said. “A lot of people out here thought, ‘Jeez, the problem with Washington is they won’t compromise when they need to.’”