If there’s a Republican who can overtake former President Donald Trump in his bid for the party’s presidential nomination, they'll need the race to dramatically turn soon or get help from outside forces.
Even some supporters of former Wyoming congresswoman Liz Cheney and members of her 2022 campaign leadership team say they see the writing on the wall.
After two state primary elections, Trump is leading his last remaining GOP challenger, former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, by a sizable margin in the polls and in her own home state.
Although the race isn’t over, many seem to believe the final result has already been decided and Trump will be the Republican nominee for president.
Many Republican members of Congress, including Wyoming U.S. Sens. John Barrasso and Cynthia Lummis, have endorsed Trump, as has Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel, who said Trump is the eventual nominee the party needs to rallying around.
Hageman also is a staunch supporter of the former president, who also endorsed her 2022 campaign.
Once falling in with other so-called “never Trumpers” — Republicans who oppose him — some of Cheney’s former supporters are now on the Trump train, while others are holding back or considering other options.
Put longtime Wyoming U.S. Sen. Al Simpson in the latter camp. After voting for Trump in 2016, Simpson said he’ll never do so again. He considers Trump a “charlatan” and a “fake,” and poked at Trump’s famous “Make America Great Again” slogan.
“Make America great again my butt,” Simpson said. “He’s not for America, he’s for himself.”
Simpson wouldn’t rule out the possibility he’d vote for President Joe Biden.
“I’ll vote for anybody with some kind of compassion,” Simpson said. “Who else are you going to vote for, for God’s sake?”
But His Policies …
State Rep. Clark Stith, R-Rock Springs, is of a different mindset, saying although he supported Cheney’s campaign, it was mostly out of isolated respect for her work in Congress rather than any kind of rebuke of Trump.
Now, Stith said he’d vote for Trump, whose policies he said will significantly help Wyoming at this time. He mentioned the Bureau of Land Management’s controversial proposed Rock Springs Resource Management Plan as a local impact of the Biden administration and believes people should focus more on Trump’s policies than his rhetoric.
“Wyoming needs President Trump right now. Biden is really bad for Wyoming,” Stith said.
Sen. Jim Anderson, R-Casper, is of a similar mindset.
“I’m really glad the Republicans have a strong candidate who can beat the incoming Democrat, whoever that might be,” Anderson said. “We can’t stand another four years of Democrat policies.”
Sheridan resident and former state legislator Rex Arney agrees with Simpson’s synopsis of Trump and Haley’s chances, but still said Trump will be the likely winner.
He also disputes arguments some Republicans like Stith and Lummis have made that conservative voters should focus on Trump’s policies rather than his rhetoric published by the media.
“I see very little in his policies worth latching onto,” Arney said.
Trump had a tough stance on the southern border while president, but Arney argues he took little meaningful action. In recent months, Biden’s handling of immigration at the border has become one of the most important issues for Americans and has become a focal point for the sharpest critiques of the president.
Lyman resident and former state legislator Danny Eyre also supported Cheney’s campaign. Eyre conceded that although he previously vowed to never vote for Trump again, he may do so because he will “absolutely not” vote for Biden.
“I liked his (Trump) policies, but I wish somebody else would do it,” Eyre said.
Paul Vogelheim was a Cheney supporter, even hosting an event for her at his Jackson home during the waning months of her campaign. Now, Vogelheim is behind Haley, but said Trump will most likely get the party’s nomination.
“It’s an uphill battle,” Vogelheim said. “Former President Trump is very organized, has momentum on his side.”
He said the fact that the final presidential choices will likely be Biden and Trump, a rematch of the 2020 election a majority of Americans say they don’t want, is a sad commentary on the state of current political affairs.
If that scenario plays out, Vogelheim said he’ll wait to see how some of Trump’s ongoing legal issues play out before deciding whether to vote for him or not.
“I might be on the sidelines this election,” he said.
Still A Chance For Haley?
Sen. Cale Case, R-Lander, contends that Haley still has a chance in the race, even though it might come by walking a “slow, tortuous” path along the campaign trail.
There are still 48 states left for caucuses and primary elections, and only 61 of 2,368 available Republican delegates allocated at this point.
Simpson believes that if Haley keeps needling Trump with insults, it’ll pay off.
“She’ll be looking to piss him off,” Simpson said. “There’s nothing like pissing a bully off.”
Simpson also mentioned how many past presidential candidates appeared to have their party’s nomination firmly in their grasp until fumbling before the finish line. Even Trump made a late comeback to earn his party’s nomination in the 2016 election.
“People forget about those things,” Simpson said. “Most people don’t zero in on the race until the summer.”
Case is holding out hope that the Supreme Court will find Trump ineligible to be put on the ballot as a result of his actions on Jan. 6, 2021.
“Whatever they rule about ballot eligibility carries the day for me,” he said.
Third Party Over GOP?
But if the court rules in Trump’s favor and he ends up being the party’s nominee, Case said he will instead consider voting for a Libertarian candidate for president.
Independent candidate Robert F. Kennedy told CNN on Monday he is considering running as the Libertarian Party’s candidate. And this week, Kennedy canceled a rally that had been scheduled for Feb. 7 in Cheyenne. He’s still planning to attend a private reception in Jackson on Feb. 8.
The March 5 Super Tuesday primary elections will likely serve as either the final demise for Haley’s campaign or an elixir of hope that she actually could fend off the former president. That day, a total of 16 states and territories, including California and Texas, will vote on 36% of the total delegates available.
Case said he has no expectations that Wyoming will vote for anyone but Trump at the caucus or general election. Trump won Wyoming by a larger margin than any other state in 2020.
“Trump will carry Wyoming,” Case said. “He’ll carry Wyoming by a large margin. No other person can do that unless Trump isn’t on the ballot. This is Trump country in a very big way.”
Leo Wolfson can be reached at Leo@CowboyStateDaily.com.