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Trump-backed Wyoming candidate will need war chest to compete with Cheney • OpenSecrets

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Former President Donald Trump promised to exact political revenge on Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) after the conservative congresswoman voted to impeach the former president and blamed him for the Jan. 6 Capitol riot. Last week, Trump made his first move by endorsing Wyoming attorney Harriet Hageman (R) in Wyoming’s at-large district Republican primary. 

While Trump’s endorsement all but guarantees Hageman will have the most momentum in the race to challenge Cheney, the once-failed gubernatorial candidate will need more than Trump’s written endorsement — she’ll need a war chest of campaign funds. 

The only campaign fundraising experience Hageman has is when she ran for Wyoming governor in 2018. She came in third in the Republican primary after raising $1.1 million and garnering about 21.5% of the vote. Gov. Mark Gordon (R-Wyo.) won the 2018 Republican primary and went on to win the gubernatorial election after raising more than $3 million. 

Cheney has already raised nearly $3.5 million in the 2022 election cycle, and a majority of that money came when House Republicans kicked her out of Republican leadership for criticizing Trump. In the second quarter of 2021, Cheney raised about $1.9 million. Hageman officially registered her candidacy with the Federal Election Commission on Sept. 9 and will file her first quarterly financial report on Oct. 15. 

While Hageman won’t come into the race with a fundraising advantage, Trump’s endorsement has already started clearing the field for the attorney. Three Republican candidates have ended their primary campaigns since Trump announced his endorsement. And the Casper Star-Tribune reported at least one Wyoming party official emailed Republican candidates asking them to step aside for Hageman. 

In his Hageman endorsement, Trump said the attorney “is strong on crime and borders, powerfully supports the Second Amendment, loves our military and our vets, and will fight for election integrity.” The former president also called Cheney a “RINO” or a “Republican in name only.” However, while Trump was in office, Cheney voted with his positions more than 90% of the time, according to FiveThirtyEight. The congresswoman also consistently votes with the positions of the conservative Heritage Foundation.

For comparison, Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.), who House Republicans chose to replace Cheney in House Republican leadership, voted with Trump just about 78% of the time. 

Cheney responded to the Trump endorsement with a tweet that said “Bring it.” 

Candidates who have gotten the former president’s endorsements have had mixed success. According to an NPR analysis, in the 2018 elections Trump’s preferred candidate often won the primary, but showed mixed results in the general elections when Democrats and unaffiliated voters also participated. 

In 2020, Trump saw more success in the candidates he endorsed. According to Ballotpedia’s tracking, of the 181 candidates Trump endorsed, 136 won and only 40 lost. However, in two of the most watched Senate races in 2020, both of the Republican and Trump-endorsed incumbents in Georgia (former Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue) lost in January runoffs, giving Democrats control of the Senate.

The former president has already suffered a public setback in his king-making abilities. Trump endorsed Susan Wright in Texas’ July special election to replace her husband, the late Rep. Ron Wright (R-Texas). Wright was soundly defeated by another Republican candidate, now Rep. Jake Ellzey (R-Texas) who won the race with 53% of the vote. 

Trump has also publicly vowed to help topple Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) in 2022. Murkowski was one of seven Republican senators who voted to convict Trump in his 2021 impeachment hearing and is the only one who is up for reelection in 2022. The former president endorsed Kelly Tshibaka, Alaska’s former state commissioner of administration, in June. 

But Tshibaka hasn’t been able to turn that endorsement into momentum. And a new voting method in the state favors the incumbent. In a July Alaska Survey Research poll, Murkowski led Tshibaka with 55% support from registered voters. 

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