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Seven of the Republican House members who voted to impeach former President Trump have already retired or lost their primary races. There has not been a more vocal GOP critic of Trump than Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney, and she is now facing an uphill battle to retain her seat in Congress. Laura Barrón-López traveled to Wyoming to speak with voters ahead of Tuesday's primary election.
Seven of the Republican House members who voted to impeach former President Donald Trump have already retired or lost their primary races.
There has not been a more vocal GOP critic of Trump than Wyoming Representative Liz Cheney, and she is now facing an uphill battle to retain her seat in Congress.
Laura Barrón-López traveled to Wyoming to speak with voters ahead of tomorrows primary election.
Rachel Martinez, Wyoming Voter:
My grandparents lived here.
Rachel Martinez and her family have lived in Wyoming for generations.
Yes. Yes, we have been here. We have been building up our communities.
But if Congresswoman Liz Cheney loses on Tuesday, that could change.
I would maybe look at a different community just because of how polarized we are, as to how vilified you are if you are opposite of the mainstream, which right now is the very far right Republican narrative.
Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY):
President Trump is a 76-year-old man. He is not an impressionable child.
Martinez has closely watched the January 6 hearings. She's encouraged by Cheney, the committee's vice chair, and her vocal criticism of former President Donald Trump's efforts to overturn the 2020 election.
Rep. Liz Cheney:
President Trump summoned the mob, assembled the mob and lit the flame of this attack.
It has vastly changed.
Laura Cheney's primary opponent has embraced election fraud lies. That's why Martinez, a Democrat, says, this year, she's switching parties to vote for Cheney.
I'm voting for somebody who I believe in the recent past has stood up for what our Constitution is about.
So, ultimately, your support of Cheney is about her defense of democracy?
Martinez isn't alone. In Wyoming, voters can change their party affiliation all the way up to the primary Election Day. There are 6,000 fewer registered Democrats now than there were at the beginning of the year. And Cheney's campaign has sent information to every Wyoming voter about how they can change parties.
At an early polling site in Cheyenne, every Democrat "NewsHour" spoke to was switching to the Republican ballot, many for the first time. Despite disagreeing with most of Cheney's conservative policies, they say her work on the January 6 Committee is too important.
Ed Heffern, Wyoming Voter:
We have got to get to the root of the problem. I completely agree with her on the January 6 investigation. I think Trump's a crook.
Dave Cromley, Wyoming Voter:
She is a patriot. She's an American. And it seems like many others are not.
Wyoming is the least populous state, but it's also the reddest. The Democrats crossing party lines to support Cheney are outnumbered 4-to-1. Trump received 70 percent of the vote here in 2020 and his popularity in the Cowboy State hasn't waned.
Donna Harvey was born and raised in Wyoming and now tends to her 560-acre ranch in rural Niobrara County. Like most voters in the state, Harvey is a Republican.
Donna Harvey, Wyoming Voter:
We're very conservative here. We're probably redder than red, I would say. And I'm righter than right.
Like other Republicans, Harvey has had doubts about Cheney since she first ran for office. She says the three-term congresswoman doesn't understand what it means to be from Wyoming.
I used to like her. I never voted for her, even the first time she ran, because she's not from here. she's from Virginia. she's never really lived in Wyoming.
Harvey supported the former president during his 2020 campaign. She still believes, despite zero evidence, that Trump won the election.
The investigation into Trump and his role on January 6 is a new reason for Harvey to support someone else on Tuesday.
I think it's just a witch-hunt, just like Trump says. They're just trying to find — to get something on him, so that he is disqualified in 2024. And I think Liz has made that very apparent also.
But there have been audits in all of those other states, multiple audits run by Republicans in some of those states. And they found no election fraud.
No, that's not right.
That's what those Republicans who ran those audits said.
Well, they're covering up stuff, just because they don't want to deal with it.
Harriet Hageman (R), Wyoming Congressional Candidate: Do you miss him yet?
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
Laura Harvey is voting for the front-runner in the Republican race, Harriet Hageman, a lawyer and 2018 candidate for governor.
Donald Trump, Former President of the United States: And she's rock-solid on ensuring free and fair elections.
Trump endorsed Hageman last September, despite her opposition to him at the 2016 GOP Convention. She has since surged to the top of the polls, beating Cheney by nearly 30 points in a recent University of Wyoming survey of likely GOP primary voters.
Absolutely, the election was rigged. It was rigged to make sure that President Trump could not get reelected.
Hageman's unwavering support of Trump and the lie that the 2020 election was stolen is earning her votes from Republicans who previously backed Cheney and even from those who know Cheney well.
Crystal Sue Carr, Wyoming Voter:
This is hard for me. This is hard, because I do like her very much as a person.
Crystal Sue Carr served on Cheney's 2016 campaign leadership team. Six years later, she agrees with what Cheney has done in Congress, with one major exception. Carr believes Trump won in 2020.
Crystal Sue Carr:
Liz and I have discussed it. I don't agree with what she's doing with Trump. I like Trump. I am a Trump person still. So I did vote for Harriet.
What do you think about her decision to serve on the January 6 Committee?
I don't agree with it. And it breaks my heart and I'm sad about it.
And why don't you agree with it?
Because I think Trump has been picked on. I think they have overstepped their boundaries time and time again with him.
Many other Republican voters who previously backed Cheney now say the same. It's impossible to support her and Trump at the same time.
John Dunlay, Wyoming Voter:
She's just sitting back trying to prosecute a guy that's trying to run for president and might run for president again.
Janice Monk, Wyoming Voter:
Anything with him has just been a big witch-hunt.
The Wyoming Republican Party has moved more to once-fringe extremes in the 18 months since the January 6 attack.
Party Chair Frank Eathorne has ties to the Oath Keepers, the paramilitary group that helped breach the U.S. Capitol. Weeks after the insurrection, the state GOP Central Committee censured Cheney for her vote to impeach Trump. Months later, they ousted her from the party altogether.
Republicans in Washington kicked her out too, removing Cheney from her leadership post because she rejected Trump's election conspiracies.
Fmr. State Rep. Tim Stubson (R-WY):
Six years ago we were sort of the standard, staid, traditional Republican Party. And I think now, more than anything, we're probably the party of Trump.
Tim Stubson is a former Wyoming legislator. He ran against Cheney for the Republican nomination for Congress in 2016. But now he's a vocal supporter. He says it's the Republican Party that changed, not Cheney.
Fmr. State Rep. Tim Stubson:
Liz is as conservative a Republican as you will find. When she's called not a Republican, it means she won't bow her knee to Donald Trump. The Republican Party is a very different party now than it used to be.
The lie that the 2020 presidential election was stolen is insidious.
Even as Hageman appears on the brink of victory, Cheney continues to challenge Trump, arguing that the former president and his team knew their plans around January 6 were illegal.
This is Donald Trump's legacy, but it cannot be the future of our nation.
Stubson acknowledges Cheney's chances to win the Republican primary are slim, but he's hopeful the Republican Party hasn't lost its way for good.
It's going to be a long, hard slog. 2024 isn't going to bring around a different Republican Party. It is going to have to be people in the party that are willing to stand up and start pushing again for recognition of the rule of law, recognition of fidelity to the Constitution.
Win or lose, Cheney says she will continue to warn Americans that Trump and leaders in her party who embrace him are the greatest threat to the country.
For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Laura Barrón-López in Casper, Wyoming.
Watch the Full Episode
Laura Barrón-López is the White House Correspondent for the PBS NewsHour, where she covers the Biden administration for the nightly news broadcast. She is also a CNN political analyst.
Matt Loffman is the PBS NewsHour's Deputy Senior Politics Producer
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