In early November she will travel to the Granite State to speak at an event honoring the First Amendment at the St. Anselm College’s Institute of Politics.
This is not a random trip. Politicians with national profiles — or those who want national profiles — go to New Hampshire (and Iowa) for one reason and one reason only: To stoke speculation that they may well run for president at some point in the future.
And that is exactly what Cheney is doing here.
Consider that as recently as late April Cheney left the door wide open to a presidential bid in 2024. “I’m not ruling anything in or out — ever is a long time,” she told the New York Post at the time. Shortly after being removed from her 3rd ranking post in House leadership for her criticism of Donald Trump, Cheney said that she would do “whatever it takes” to ensure that the former president was not the Republican standard-bearer in 2024.
It seems clear then that Cheney — with this upcoming trip to New Hampshire on the books — wants to keep the option of running for president in 2024 very much on the table. Which makes sense given the utter uncertainty of her political future.
Trump, angry that Cheney was one of 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach him for his role in the January 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol, has endorsed a primary challenger to Cheney and is promising to defeat her. Trump has called Cheney a “warmonger” and “disloyal Republican” among other names.
Unlike many establishment Republican types, Cheney has not backed down in the face of Trump’s bluster. Instead, she has rallied the GOP establishment — such as it exists at this point. Former President George W. Bush is set to hold a fundraiser to benefit Cheney in October in Dallas and she has also received campaign contributions from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, as well as former House Speakers John Boehner and Paul Ryan. Cheney has already raised more than $3.4 million this year and had nearly $2.9 million left in the bank, according to her last campaign finance report.
What Cheney may be betting on is that if she wins her primary next year that she will emerge in GOP circles as the one who slayed the Trump dragon — walking and talking evidence that standing up to the former president doesn’t have to be a death knell for a Republican elected official.
And that sort of let’s-dump-Trump-and-move-on message might well resonate well beyond Wyoming in 2024 as Republicans take a very long look in the mirror to decide who they are and who they want to be going forward.
Given all of that, Cheney’s trip to New Hampshire is even more intriguing. Her current political profile — conservative, hawkish, outsider — reminds me of a man who made his political name in New Hampshire not once but twice: The late John McCain.
McCain’s great strength in the state, which he carried in the 2000 and 2008 presidential primary fight, was his iconoclast persona. Residents of the state responded to a guy who was willing to slay his party’s sacred cows — and do it with a smile on his face.
The biggest sacred cow in Republican politics these days is Donald Trump. And, so far, no Republican has stood up to him and prospered politically. Cheney’s big bet is that she will be a pioneer in that space — and that in so doing, she may well catapult herself into the 2024 conversation too. And that all starts with New Hampshire.