Poll: Liz Cheney Only 34 Points Behind in Her Senate Race

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
July 19 2013 12:25 PM

Poll: Liz Cheney Only 34 Points Behind in Her Senate Race

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Mind the gap.

Photo by Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

It's distressing to learn that only 21 percent of Wyoming Republican primary voters love America and hate the terrorists, but there it is. Harper Polling, the first company to take a temperature in the Wyoming GOP Senate primary, returns with a bevy of bad news for Liz Cheney. In a trial heat with Sen. Mike Enzi, she trails him 55-21. By a 20-point margin, Republicans say Enzi "deserves re-election." By a 64-point margin, they approve of his job performance. His favorable rating is +70 points; the younger Cheney is at +30, with an unfavorable number nearly three times as high. (They're all pretty marginal negatives.) He's even more popular than Dick Cheney.

These numbers won't stick. Right out of the gate, Liz Cheny has been deriding Enzi as "confused" and insufficiently conservative—too go-along-to-get-along, although examples of this have yet to be cited. (It helps him, in a primary, that he bailed early on Obamacare negotiations even though Democrats thought they could deal with him.) But this should remind us of the size of her task. Most of the primary upsets of the Obama era have been of insurgents winning the right to hold open seats—Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Christine O'Donnell. One of the incumbents who went down, Bob Bennett, lost in a packed convention. Lisa Murkowski, who narrowly lost a primary, went on to win as a write-in candidate.

What race gives the most hope to a Cheney candidacy? I'd say the 2012 primary in Indiana, which Richard Mourdock won in a landslide over Richard Lugar. But Lugar was 10 years older than Enzi will be next year. Famously, he hadn't worked the state as vigorously as he needed to—his residency in a hotel was probably the most damaging hit on him during the primary. And Lugar was on video saying nice things about Barack Obama. Enzi's made none of those wrong-foot steps. There's no way Enzi ends up winning by 34 points, but Cheney has to do an unheard-of amount of damage to him to close in.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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