Although the 2024 presidential election is still more than a year off, many Wyoming Republicans and politicos will tune into the first GOP presidential debate of the campaign season Wednesday.
Over the past few weeks, Cowboy State Daily has talked with a handful of Wyoming Republicans about their feelings on the upcoming election and who they support for the Republican nomination. While a significant segment of the GOP nationwide shows support from former President Donald Trump, many Wyoming Republicans are still firmly behind the 45th president.
Trump won Wyoming by a larger margin of victory than any other state in 2020, and there is little evidence that support has wavered as he’s maintained allegations that the results of the 2020 election was fraudulent and played down the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol.
Trump endorsed U.S. Rep. Harriet Hageman in her campaign against former congresswoman Liz Cheney in 2022, who criticized Trump after the 2020 election and served as vice chair of the United States House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol.
Hageman beat Cheney by a landslide margin of more than 38% of the vote.
During that campaign, Trump held a rally on Hageman’s behalf in Casper that was attended by more than 10,000 people. At the rally, Wyoming Republican Party Chair Frank Eathorne said he would run through a barbed wire fence for the former president.
Laramie resident and Albany County Republican Party Vice Chair Rick Martin said he’s pulling for Trump, but will support any candidate the party nominates.
A 'Persecuted' President
Converse County GOP Vice Chair Jim Creaser said although he’s voted for the Constitutional Party candidate in the last few presidential elections, he plans to vote for Trump and only Trump this time around in protest of the criminal charges filed against him, which he feels are unwarranted.
“Anybody who has been so persecuted and lied about — he’s the most persecuted president in U.S. history — must be doing something right,” Creaser said.
Park County Republican Party Committeewoman Karen Jones believes all of Trump’s legal entanglements will benefit him in the long run. That hypothesis is at least accurate with Republican voters, who have shown increasing support for the former president in recent months despite three federal indictments filed against him this summer.
“There’s been such persecution and prosecution against Trump,” Jones said. “I support Trump for that reason. He has taken all these blows, very undeserved blows.”
Creaser said when Trump was first elected, he thought he was a “clown” and questioned some of his early policy decisions. But he quickly changed his mind about Trump for his non-interventionist approach to foreign affairs.
Jones loves Trump’s policies and believes the country has taken a turn for the worse since President Joe Biden took office.
“Now that Biden is in, no one is better off,” she said. “Well, maybe the elites.”
Two other members of the party who Cowboy State Daily spoke to and asked not be identified also said they support Trump.
‘I Think It’s Time For A Change’
While the Cowboy State remains a Trump stronghold with Republicans, not all support the former president.
Sweetwater County Republican Party Chairman Elizabeth Bigham said she’s most behind Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis for the 2024 presidential nomination.
“I like what he’s accomplished in Florida,” Bigham said. “I think he has the bravado Trump has.”
Natrona County State Committeewoman Kim Walker said she’s considering Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott and DeSantis for president. Although she strongly supported Trump in 2020 and said she still does today, Walker believes it’s time for the party to take a new direction.
“I think it’s time for a change,” she said.
Wyoming Republican Party National Committeewoman Nina Webber said she does “not have a clue at this point” who she will support and “wants to hear what the grassroots” has to say.
Webber will be in Wisconsin for Wednesday’s debates, although Trump isn’t participating in this debate, which will feature eight GOP hopefuls for the nomination.
But Who Has The Best Chance Of Winning?
Former state legislator and Casper resident Tim Stubson is a Wyoming Republican who not only doesn’t support Trump, he believes if Trump is the party’s nominee, he probably couldn’t beat Biden in a rematch of 2020.
“If Trump’s our nominee, I think it’s more likely than not that we lose,” he said. “I frankly think Trump is damaged goods even if he were to get elected.”
Stubson expects the field to narrow as the primary season gets underway.
He believes there are now too many Republican candidates in the presidential race, which he said gives Trump an easier path to becoming the party’s nominee.
But even if every candidate besides Trump and one other were to drop out of the race, the former president would still cruise to a fairly easy win based on current polling numbers.
While Bigham said she’ll still support Trump if he gets the nomination and “adores” what he did as president, she also doesn’t think he can beat Biden.
Bigham believes DeSantis would have the best chance to beat Biden in a head-to-head race, and that no matter how much Trump’s supporters love him, it won’t be enough to overcome the general fatigue people have from hearing about him in the media, most often for his ongoing legal woes.
In a CBS News poll released Sunday, 61% of Republicans say Trump would “definitely” beat Biden in a rematch, by far the highest vote getter in that category.
Support for DeSantis has precipitously dropped over the course of the summer with 15% fewer voters believing he would “definitely” beat Biden than in June.
But there is still a long time to go before the Wyoming Republican caucuses next spring, and many local voters may still have an open mind about who they will support, even if it’s Trump today. At the last caucuses in 2016, Texas U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz dominated Wyoming, taking 24 of the state’s 26 delegates.
Despite his dropping polling numbers, DeSantis is still well in the conversation among Republican voters.
The CBS poll shows that DeSantis has the highest level of support among candidates that “might” beat Biden. He also has 40% support from people who say they are “considering” him as a candidate.
Leo Wolfson can be reached at Leo@CowboyStateDaily.com.