Bill Sniffin: The Whole World Is Watching Wyoming Politics

Bill Sniffin writes: "The Liz Cheney-Harriet Hageman race for our lone U. S. Rep. seat in the GOP primary is being covered breathlessly by media and watched nonstop by political junkies from just about everywhere."

Bill Sniffin

August 05, 20224 min read

Collage Maker 05 Aug 2022 10 43 AM 1
(Cowboy State Daily Staff)

By Bill Sniffin, publisher emeritus

It’s big folks. It’s REALLY BIG!

Our small election in our small state is a really big deal across the country and around the world.

The Liz Cheney-Harriet Hageman race for our lone U. S. Representative seat in the GOP primary is being covered breathlessly by media and watched nonstop by political junkies from just about everywhere.

For example, news organizations have even reached out to our tiny local coffee group in Lander, the Fox News All-Stars. These dozen guys have been featured in a full page spread in USA Today and in the large Danish newspaper Berlingske. Just before the election, a TV crew from Japan will be filming our guys pontificating on the race.

This type of national news coverage is happening all over Wyoming. The world is coming to the Cowboy State because of the personal feud between Cheney and former president Donald Trump.

Cheney voted to impeach Trump. She also is vice-chair of a Congressional committee blaming the former president for the riot that occurred at the Capitol Jan. 6, 2021. She has been outspoken in her efforts to knock down the former president. 

Trump has singled out Cheney as “despicable” (his word). He has been to Wyoming once to help Hageman. Might he drop by again just before the primary? If polling shows Harriet in trouble, he will be back. This is personal to him.

As election day approaches, I see two possible conclusions occurring which are totally unprecedented in Wyoming history.

First, there is going to be unprecedented cross-over voting in Wyoming in the Aug. 16 Republican Primary. I earlier predicted 15,000 such voters. I reached out to some other knowledgeable Wyomingites with my speculation that maybe 30,000 might cross over. Literally nobody agreed with me on the higher number. Today, I think that higher number might be in reach.

Secondly, the money being spent is over the top. I thought the 2018 GOP governor primary would be hard to beat when three candidates each spent over $2 million. Cheney might be spending that much in a single month! How does she spend that much? By hiring highly qualified people to convince individual voters one at a time to support her cause. This might be the only time in American election history that this strategy has been tried. It could only work in a primary election in the state with the lowest population. It is a great tactic. And it might work.

Originally, it seemed like the biggest asset for Cheney was the power of incumbency, but it pales compared to the results of the millions of dollars being spent. The barrage of TV ads, digital messages, and direct mail pieces has been unrelenting for months.

For years into the future, I predict political strategists will look at this campaign to see how Cheney pulled it off – if she wins.

She is David versus Goliath in this race. But if she spends enough money some amazing things can happen – even underestimated underdogs can pull off upsets.

Another two big considerations will be big in this election.

Voter apathy will come into play. Although it is mind-boggling to think anyone would knowingly stay away from the polls in this highly-charged election, we need to remember that this is an off year politically from presidential years. This would hurt Hageman and help Cheney.

Voter motivation will be big. The Trump-haters despise the former president so much, they might just move heaven and earth to vote against him. This election is a proxy war on Trump. The folks wanting to poke him in the butt are legion. This will also hurt Hageman and help Cheney.

So, let’s discuss in a little more depth about apathy and motivation.

Despite these dog days of summer and the doldrums that come with it, could not the argument be made that anti-Cheney voters might be just as eager to vote for Hageman as the anti-Trumpers are eager to vote for Cheney? Polls seem to indicate this. However, I still am not convinced of the accuracy of these polls.

And are not the Hageman voters motivated, too? Besides being pro-Trump, a great many believe Cheney has abandoned Wyoming for the national stage. They believe she should move on and they intend to help her do that by voting for Hageman.

Election day is drawing near. And this campaign is nearing its end. Right now, it looks like a dead heat to me with Hageman seemingly losing momentum because of voter apathy. And I see Cheney quietly gaining ground, thanks to crossover voting.

There are only 581,000 people in Wyoming. But, at this time, in this place, millions of people across the country and the world are watching.

Folks, this is REALLY BIG!

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Bill Sniffin

Wyoming Life Columnist

Columnist, author, and journalist Bill Sniffin writes about Wyoming life on Cowboy State Daily -- the state's most-read news publication.