By Bill Sniffin, publisher emeritus
It’s taken me three weeks to finally digest what happened in Wyoming during that GOP primary election Aug. 16.
The results came quickly but what the hell really happened?
This election was seen as a proxy fight between former President Donald Trump and his chief Congressional nemesis, Wyoming U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney.
In the end, it was not a Cheney-Trump fight. It was simply a job interview and Wyoming folks demonstrated they wanted to hire someone who would work for Wyoming – not a candidate operating a national campaign to disgrace a former president. That former president, incidentally, also got over 70 percent of the vote in the last presidential election in Wyoming in 2020.
The warm-up to this primary was electrifying. Information about this Wyoming election was on every news channel in the country and around the world.
The fact that this campaign ended with a whimper, instead of a bang, makes reflecting on it even more fascinating.
Harriet Hageman, Trump’s designated candidate, slaughtered Cheney by an almost impossible landslide total of 113,079 to 49,339.
All-Time Record Vote
Forget about Cheney and Trump, though. The stars of this election were the voters of Wyoming. They really turned out. They set a new all-time record for ballots cast in any primary election in history.
I was one of the pundits who thought the race would be close and Cheney had a chance. We all live in our own bubbles including me. But mine must include too many moderate Republicans, Independents, and Democrats, all of whom told me they (and all their buddies) were going to vote for Cheney.
You follow your gut in these situations and this time, my gut got it wrong. I did predict the Hageman win and said I was going to vote for Harriet but I sure thought it would be closer.
After covering elections for 52 years, this one was unique. It was the most entertaining and the most scrutinized, going-in.
After it was over, well, not much to scrutinize. It was a debacle. The main event was done about 8:20 p.m. election night as Cheney conceded and then launched into a speech highlighting her future life as Trump’s chief national nemesis going forward.
Her argument might have been more effective had she put up a more impressive campaign but the result for her was ignominious. Her future bully pulpit is diminished by the size of her loss in this primary. She should have seen this coming and not run for reelection.
Had not 30,000 Democrats and Independents crossed over, she might have lost by a 5:1 factor. This is almost impossible in American political history. Nobody gets clobbered that badly, right? Especially an incumbent who comes from home state royalty with a name like Cheney. Really?
Dealing With National Press
Dealing with the national and international press was fun. Out of 435 House races across the country, our single little Wyoming race generated more ink and more air time than all the others put together. It was like the Cowboy State was hosting a presidential primary.
When the smoke cleared after the election, it showed that 182,232 ballots were cast with an amazing total of 172,047 voting in the GOP primary and just 8,201 in the Democrat primary. This is 20:1 Republican over Democrat. There just cannot be another state in the country with this type of one-sided party membership. At least for this brief moment in history.
On Jan. 1 of 2022, there were 45,822 Democrats registered in the state and 35,344 independents registered. By Sept. 1, this number had changed to just 30,271 Democrats and 26,866 independents. It is a safe assumption that these 24,029 “new” members of the Republican Party were cross-over voters. Plus, this does not count the thousands of Democrats and Independents who changed their registration and then quickly changed back.
Based on these numbers, is it possible that at least 30,000 of Cheney’s 49,339 votes came from people outside her Republican Party? Wow, if so, what a repudiation.
We have amazing memories of this political year. The high point was Cowboy State Daily continuous live political blog from 7 p.m. to 1 a.m. on election night under the guidance of Editor Jimmy Orr.
A crew of Leo Wolfson, Mark Heinz, Ellen Fike, Josh Wood, Wendy Corr, Clair McFarland, Jen Kocher, Coy Knobel, Rod Miller, Cat Urbigkit, Dave Simpson, myself, and others worked very hard.
A low point was the untimely death of Managing Editor Jim Angell the morning after the election. He would have enjoyed that election night so much. He is irreplaceable. Our sadness is immense but nothing compared to what his wife Mary and daughter Amanda are experiencing. Our condolences.