Liz Cheney Goes Home to Washington

Liz Cheney, who was trailing in polls by somewhere between 30 and 50 points, announced today that she is ending her Senate primary campaign against Republican Mike Enzi, a campaign that had been launched on the premise that Enzi, a man with a 93 percent lifetime American Conservative Union score, was a bleeding-heart liberal whose efforts in the upper chamber were not nearly filibustery enough. Cheney cited "serious health issues" in her family, implying that it has to do with one of her children, though she couldn't help wrapping it some gag-inducing baloney: " My children and their futures were the motivation for our campaign and their health and well being will always be my overriding priority." In any case, if one of Cheney's children is ill, everyone certainly wishes him or her a speedy recovery. But what can we make of the failure of Cheney's campaign?

For starters, it's a reminder that celebrity comes in many forms, and guarantees almost nothing in electoral politics apart from some initial attention. Sure, the occasional coke-snorting TV anchor can parlay his time in front of the camera into an election win, but having a familiar name isn't enough. If you look at all the sons, daughters, and wives (not too many husbands) of politicians who went on to get elected, the successful ones chose their races carefully, not challenging a strong incumbent in a state they hadn't lived in since they were little kids.

As my friend Cliff Schecter tweeted, next on Liz Cheney's agenda is moving back to Virginia next week, then getting on Meet the Press. After all, Wyoming is a nice place to run for office from, but you wouldn't want to live there. Or at least, you can't live there if you want to be part of the action in Washington, and it sure seemed that Wyoming Republican voters sensed that Cheney was just a tourist in their fine state.

This is something I've been going on about for a long time, that so many conservatives wax rhapsodic about small towns and The Heartland, yet they live in big cities on the East Coast, one in particular. Now of course, it's difficult to have a career as a pundit if you live in Buford, WY (population: 1, seriously). But that's kind of the point. Liz Cheney grew up in Virginia because her dad was an important guy doing important things in government. It would have been ridiculous for him to keep his family back in Wyoming, all the fine opportunities for fly-fishing not withstanding, so for the Cheneys it became the place they're from, not the place they live.

Your average conservative Republican congressman spends his time in office railing against the Gomorrah on the Potomac and extolling the virtues of the common folk back in Burgsville, but what happens when he retires or loses an election? He buys a nice townhouse in the Virginia suburbs and becomes a lobbyist, electing to live out his days in the very place he told his constituents was a hellhole he couldn't wait to get out of.

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