With just over three weeks until Wyoming's Primary Election Day on August 16, challenger Harriet Hageman has a huge lead on three-term incumbent Liz Cheney in the race for Wyoming's lone U.S. House seat, according to a recent poll in the Casper Star-Tribune.
"I can’t remember the last time I saw an incumbent down 22 points in a House Race, unless it was somebody who had been indicted or convicted of a crime," said Brad Coker, managing director of Mason-Dixon Polling & Strategy, the firm that conducted the poll.
While Cheney isn’t on trial, she is kind of involved in one as one of the members of the committee investigating the attacks on the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021, and that’s likely the reason for her deficit.
"I think the circumstance with Hageman and Liz Cheney has more to do with Cheney being on the January 6th committee than it does anything else," said Paul Pope, an associate professor of political science at Montana State University-Billings.
"One of the conclusions I drew is this race is really more about Cheney than it's about Trump," Coker agreed.
Former president Donald Trump endorsed Hageman last September, but Coker’s poll shows that hasn’t been as big of a factor: just 30 percent of voters said Trump’s endorsement made them more likely to vote for Hageman - a natural resources lawyer - while 44 percent said it had no effect.
The more eye-popping number is Cheney’s approval rating, with more than 2 to 1 saying she’s done a poor job.
"Her approval rating is only 27 percent approve, 66 percent disapprove," Coker said. "That number is devastating”
"I think that is telling about the political attitudes in Wyoming," Pope expanded.
Pope said he’s not surprised by Cheney’s deficit because of what a heavy red state like Wyoming has been trending toward.
"It's an example of what we in political science call tribalism, where the parties are moving as far out to their wings as they can get," he said. "A Libertarian-leaning candidate like Liz Cheney, they don’t do well in today's climate because the Republican Party has moved so far right from the center."
Pope said things could change before Election Day, but the website FiveThirtyEight gives Mason-Dixon an A- in accuracy, calling each of their last 14 races correctly. Coker believes it’ll be 15.
"I’ve never seen an incumbent come back from a 22-point deficit," he said.
It’s a spot Cheney’s opponents are usually in, and we’ve seen how that turned out.