After months of slow news, former President Donald Trump is causing a ruckus in the Wyoming political world.
According to a myriad of sources, the two GOP U. S. House candidates being invited for endorsement consideration are Cheyenne attorney Darin Smith and Casper legislator Chuck Gray. Although State Sen. Anthony Bouchard was the first to jump into the race against incumbent Liz Cheney, he was not invited by Trump.
Trump has a big-time grudge against Cheney because she was one of 10 Republican House members who voted to impeach the former president. Cheney has become even more vocal since then in her criticism of Trump, which has isolated her from a huge number of Wyoming Republicans.
Wyoming voters polled more in favor of Trump in the 2016 and 2020 presidential elections than voters in any other state. This IS Trump country.
The prevailing pro-Trump mood among many Republicans in Wyoming is so dominant that Cheney is seldom seen at public events these days and travels with two security men at her side. In the first quarter of this year, she spent over $58,000 on personal protection.
Based on money raised, while Bouchard has raised the most in donations of any of Cheney’s challengers at almost $580,000, Smith has more cash on hand, $142,461 to Bouchard’s $108,612 after raising about $171,000 in just the second quarter of the year.
(Note: Smith and I worked together of Foster Friess’s governor race in 2018.)
Smith said he has raised money the old-fashioned way – from friends and supporters. Smith’s $142,000 is the biggest war chest of cash among Cheney’s rivals, when you do not count money loaned directly to the campaign by the candidate himself.
When I chatted with Smith last week, he said he has kept his head down and is working hard. He is traveling the state and attending GOP functions around Wyoming.
Fox News broke the story that Bouchard was not invited to Trump’s resort in New Jersey for the meeting. According to Trump staff, the former president plans to endorse just one candidate and then work tirelessly on his behalf to defeat Cheney. If Cheney decides to run again, this will be an all-time ugly race.
“Remember,” Trump said, “in the end we just want ONE CANDIDATE (capitals by Trump) running against Cheney.”
Meanwhile in related news, state Sen. Bo Biteman, R-Ranchester commissioned what is called a “push-poll” of Wyoming Republican voters Tuesday about running against Cheney. Cowboy State Daily was tipped off by someone, who was called.
This person said the poll was obviously designed to both determine Biteman’s statewide name recognition and then promote his candidacy in the race against Cheney for the House seat. The call contained a half-dozen questions about how Biteman would fare when running against Cheney or Smith, Gray, or Bouchard. Biteman did not return my calls.