Discretion is said to be a major part of valor. In the case of an incumbent who has fallen out of favor with his or her party base, they must apply such discretion in their decision whether to run for reelection.
In cases of a lone, credible primary challenger, the outcome is often clear. It might be time to find an exit from the political stage. If there are multiple credible alternatives dividing the “anti-vote,” there might be a chance for the embattled incumbent.
Which brings us to Rep. Liz Cheney, someone whose votes and positions on issues has been well aligned with her constituents in Wyoming—at least prior to the second impeachment of then-President Donald Trump. Her vote in favor led to her being removed from House Republican leadership earlier this year.
She isn’t backing down. Her decision to accept a slot on the select committee investigating the events of Jan. 6 is unlikely to endear her to the Trumpeteers. Cheney’s father, former Vice President Dick Cheney, rarely passed up a fight and it would appear that in this case, the acorn did not fall far from the tree.
A half-dozen Republicans have indicated that they will challenge Cheney in the GOP primary slated for Aug. 16 of next year, and there could well be more. Whether Trump and his allies could clear the field for a single challenger, or at least prune it some by the May 27 filing deadline, is a key question.
Other campaign front-runners, while not incumbents, are hoping for many candidates to fracture their opposition vote. In Missouri, Senate Republican Policy Committee Chair Roy Blunt has announced that after 14 years in the House and 12 years in the Senate, he will not seek a third term. While the seat is arguably a slam dunk for Republicans, the GOP is a bit nervous. The candidate leading in early primary polling is former Gov. Eric Greitens. The Duke graduate, Rhodes scholar and Navy SEAL was elected governor in 2016, serving two and a half years before having to resign from office after a messy scandal and indictment, though charges were later dropped and the Missouri State Ethics Commission "found no evidence of any wrongdoing."
That said, the details were pretty sordid, leaving quite a few Republicans wondering if there is a level of toxicity that could endanger the seat even in such a red state.
While Greitens leads in polling, he has high-profile rivals for the GOP nomination. State Attorney General and former Treasurer Eric Schmitt announced his candidacy in March. A second, rather controversial, candidate jumped into the race in May: Mark McCloskey, the St Louis attorney who was captured on social media brandishing an assault rifle as Black Lives Matter protesters passed his house on the way to demonstrate in front of the home of the city’s mayor.
Last month, six-term Rep. Vicky Hartzler threw her hat into the ring and others are expected to enter the fight. The more alternative candidates there are, the better Greitens’s chances are of winning the primary, as there is no runoff under Missouri law.
Alabama could be another race where one candidate is hoping for a big field of rivals. Katie Britt, a former chief of staff to retiring Sen. Richard Shelby and more recently president of the Business Council of Alabama, the umbrella organization of corporate CEOs in the state, entered the race in June. Shelby quickly endorsed her, cementing her status at the Republican establishment candidate, notwithstanding a very Trumpian video she released to introduce herself to voters. Britt’s 6-foot-8, 320-pound husband, Wesley Britt, was a standout offensive tackle and captain of the University of Alabama football team, going on to play for the New England Patriots and San Diego Chargers.
Britt-backers are hoping that the staunchest of the Trump camp will split between Rep. Mo Brooks a six-term House member, lawyer and former state Representative who entered the race in March, and was endorsed by Trump in April, and Lynda Blanchard, a wealthy businesswoman who served as Trump’s ambassador to Slovenia, the home country of first lady Melania Trump.
Two more examples in the House are Peter Meijer, a freshman Republican who won Justin Amash’s seat in the 3rd District of Michigan. Meijer’s vote for Trump’s impeachment is likely to be very problematic in a primary, though a big field and no runoff means that he has some chance of reelection. Interestingly, Amash did not seek reelection after his own support for impeachment.
In tougher shape would be Tom Rice, who represents South Carolina’s 7th District and also supported Trump’s impeachment. Because South Carolina does have a runoff, even a big field might not enable him to beat his most prominent rival, former Myrtle Beach Mayor Mark McBride.
There is an old (and bad) joke about a woman who’s by a friend, “How’s your husband?” Her response: “Compared to what?” In some party primaries, the question is “Compared to how many?”
This article was originally published by the National Journal on July 2, 2021.
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