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What's next for Liz Cheney

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

A key primary last night reaffirmed Donald Trump's hold on the Republican Party - and specifically on Wyoming. As expected, Republican Representative Liz Cheney lost her race in a landslide, defeated by a Trump-endorsed political newcomer, attorney Harriet Hageman. Of course, Cheney is not just any member of Congress. She came to office five years ago on a rocket trajectory as the daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney.

Everything changed when she voted to impeach Trump after the January 6 insurrection. Republicans ousted her from leadership. Democrats welcomed her as vice chair of the House committee investigating the attack on the Capitol. Now, as she told NBC's Savannah Guthrie this morning, a 2024 presidential run is not out of the question.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "TODAY")

SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: Are you thinking about it? Are you thinking about running for president?

LIZ CHENEY: That's a decision that I'm going to make in the coming months, Savannah. I'm not going to make any announcements here this morning. But it is something that I am thinking about, and I'll make a decision in the coming months.

SHAPIRO: So what do last night's results say about the political future of the GOP and of Liz Cheney herself? Well, political journalist Jodi Enda has been thinking and writing about this. Welcome to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED.

JODI ENDA: Thanks for having me.

SHAPIRO: Cheney says she is starting a political organization focused on stopping Donald Trump from winning the White House again. And she has not ruled out running for president herself. But before we look to her future, can we take a step back? Describe how she was perceived as a politician prior to the insurrection.

ENDA: Well, Liz Cheney was a conservative's conservative. She voted with Donald Trump 93% of the time. She only has voted with President Biden 18% of the time. She's opposed to abortion rights. She's a very strong supporter of gun rights. She voted against strengthening the Voting Rights Act. She voted against reforming the police in the wake of George Floyd's murder. And like so many of her Republican colleagues, she wanted to repeal Obamacare. So she comes from the right wing, the conservative wing of the Republican Party, much as her father, Dick Cheney, did. And this is the first time she's really broken away from that mold.

SHAPIRO: And yet that one break caused her to lose her race by nearly 40 points to a relative political unknown who had Trump's support. The former president wrote on his platform Truth Social that Cheney can, quote, "finally disappear into the depths of political oblivion." But I take it most don't see that as likely to happen. How do you view her political future?

ENDA: Well, that would be in his dream. Her dream is to make sure that Donald Trump never gets anywhere near the Oval Office again. And she seems determined to make that happen.

SHAPIRO: But she can clearly do that as head of a think tank, as the leader of a political action committee. Can she do that as a politician herself if she does not have the strong support and backing of a political party? As you point out, she is one of the most conservative members of the House. She's not about to run for office as a Democrat, and the Republicans have all but disavowed her.

ENDA: Right. She's unlikely to win the Republican nomination, which is the first step that she would need to do to win the presidency. However, she could be a thorn in President Trump's side. Imagine for a moment if she is on the debate stage next to Trump. She's an excellent speaker. She has the facts on her side about the election. And he's easily flappable. Does that mean that she could win the nomination or the presidency? Highly unlikely. But she certainly could use that platform to try to knock him off his game.

SHAPIRO: If I understand what you're saying, it sounds like you believe she has a future in politics, if not a future as a politician, per se.

ENDA: Oh, for sure. She said in her concession speech last night, freedom must not, cannot, will not die here.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIEVED RECORDING)

CHENEY: If we do not condemn the conspiracies and the lies, if we do not hold those responsible to account, we will be excusing this conduct, and it will become a feature of all elections. America will never be the same.

ENDA: So she might not be a candidate, but she's certainly going to be a very high-profile voice in our nation's conversation.

SHAPIRO: A leader needs followers. Who is her base?

ENDA: That's a very good question. Her base for the fight against Trump are anti-Trump Republicans, Democrats and independents who don't want to see him run again. But right now, she is the darling of Democrats. She's a darling of people who don't want Trump in office again. And they will support her in her effort to block him from running or winning again.

SHAPIRO: Let's talk more broadly about what last night's primaries say about the state of the Republican Party right now. After the insurrection, 10 House Republicans voted to impeach Trump, and only 2 of the 10 are going to be on the general election ballot in the fall. What does that say about the state of the GOP?

ENDA: Yeah, it's interesting, Ari, that the least populous state really is showing us what is happening to the Republican Party. This is Trump's party now. And no matter what people say about conservative values and policies, none of that matters if candidates are not loyal to Donald Trump. The people who either lost their primaries or who chose not to run again in the face of Trump-endorsed candidates are just as conservative as any Republicans are, as Liz Cheney is, in fact probably more conservative in many ways than Donald Trump is. That has nothing to do with the politics of the Republican Party anymore. It's a loyalty test to Donald Trump. And especially within Republican primaries where the most conservative members of the base vote, that's what matters.

SHAPIRO: That's political journalist Jodi Enda. She's also a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, a left-of-center think tank. Thank you so much for joining us.

ENDA: You're welcome. It's good to be here. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ari Shapiro has been one of the hosts of All Things Considered, NPR's award-winning afternoon newsmagazine, since 2015. During his first two years on the program, listenership to All Things Considered grew at an unprecedented rate, with more people tuning in during a typical quarter-hour than any other program on the radio.
Linah Mohammad
Prior to joining NPR in 2022, Mohammad was a producer on The Washington Post's daily flagship podcast Post Reports, where her work was recognized by multiple awards. She was honored with a Peabody award for her work on an episode on the life of George Floyd.
Ashley Brown is a senior editor for All Things Considered.