The 2014 Senate races just got a little less interesting—and perhaps that’s a good thing:
Liz Cheney, whose upstart bid to unseat Wyoming Sen. Mike Enzi sparked a round of warfare in the Republican Party and even within her own family, is dropping out of the Senate primary, she said in a prepared statement Monday morning.
“Serious health issues have recently arisen in our family, and under the circumstances, I have decided to discontinue my campaign,” she said.
When Cheney announced her Senate bid last year, she seemed to be jumping into a mosh pit that had long ago parted. Political analysts were puzzled, Enzi was peeved, and many conservatives (including this one) expressed skepticism. The Cheney campaign never reached full speed, burdened by a series of conflicts and embarrassments, including an unseemly public spat with her lesbian sister over gay marriage and allegations that she ordered to “shut up” the unshutupable former Wyoming senator Alan Simpson.
There are at least two lessons to be learned from all this. The first is that Tip O’Neill’s old aphorism still applies: All politics is local. Cheney, who didn’t move to Wyoming until 2012, was constantly portrayed as a carpetbagger, most notably by Sen. Rand Paul who quipped, “I wondered if she was running in her home state of Virginia.” The very presence of Enzi, whose first political office was mayor of Gillette, Wyo., made Cheney look like an outsider by comparison. Enzi had long been good to Wyoming, and the Equality State returned the favor.
The second lesson is that there is no great clamor for a neoconservative presence in the Senate. The only glaring policy differences between Cheney and Enzi involved foreign policy, with Cheney hawking her father’s hawkish views and Enzi one of the few Republicans to vote against two key war spending bills. The Washington Post’s Jennifer Rubin lauded Cheney’s candidacy, calling her “part of a growing trend of conservatives…who are concerned with the hollowing out of our military and the isolationist trend in the GOP and the country at large.” Instead Cheney was contorted by shifting conservative views on foreign policy, and ended up opposing intervention in Syria after years of demanding Bashar al-Assad’s head. Here, especially, the mosh pit metaphor seems apt.
This isn’t to say that more hawkish GOP senators won’t emerge. Tom Cotton, a (genuinely impressive) neoconservative golden boy and one of only seven Republican congressmen to support action against Assad, has a shot at Mark Pryor’s Senate seat in Arkansas. But as far as stemming the dovish wave—Rubin’s “growing trend”—it’s not happening.
All the best to the Cheneys, and prayers for the ailing former vice president.