Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida will rally the Trump faithful in Wyoming on Thursday, hoping to bring a MAGA backlash to GOP Rep. Liz Cheney’s backyard after she voted to impeach the former President for his role in inciting the riot at the Capitol.
The Republican party is now grappling with its future post-Trump, and some elected officials, like Gaetz, are positioning themselves as the bearer of his brand by attacking other Republicans like Cheney, who are hoping to move past it. Republican leaders have warned that the internecine fighting hurts the party.
“I have a competing vision for Republicanism,” Gaetz told reporters this week. “I believe that we ought to embrace the spirit and style of President Trump.”
Cheney, the No. 3 House Republican, was one of only 10 Republicans to vote to impeach the former President. In a statement, Cheney blamed the violence at the Capitol on January 6 — including the death of five people — directly on Trump, saying he “summoned,” “assembled” and “lit the flame of this attack.”
“There has never been a greater betrayal by a President of the United States of his office and his oath to the Constitution,” the Wyoming Republican said.
But Cheney’s decision has sparked a retaliation in her deeply conservative home state, as Gaetz and other Republicans push her to step down from her leadership position as conference chair of the House GOP. Most Republicans still back the former President and 72% of Republicans continue to believe his falsehood that President Joe Biden won the 2020 presidential election due to voter fraud, according to a recent Monmouth University poll.
A GOP state senator, Anthony Bouchard, has announced a 2022 campaign against Cheney. Over 50,000 people apparently signed a Change.org petition to “recall” Cheney. Donald Trump Jr., the former President’s son, tweeted, “with Republicans like Liz Cheney who needs Democrats?” And the Wyoming Republican state party released a statement saying, “There has not been a time during our tenure when we have seen this type of an outcry from our fellow Republicans, with the anger and frustration being palpable in the comments we have received.”
“Our telephone has not stopped ringing, our email is filling up, and our website has seen more traffic than at any previous time,” the statement said. “The consensus is clear that those who are reaching out to the Party vehemently disagree with Representative Cheney’s decision and actions.”
Gaetz said that Cheney’s “principal job” is to “carry the message” of her fellow House Republicans.
“Most of the members of the Republican conference don’t believe that Liz Cheney speaks for them,” he said.
A source in Cheney’s office dismissed Gaetz’s event as a publicity stunt. The source said that “Rep. Gaetz can leave his beauty bag at home. In Wyoming, the men don’t wear make-up.” The source linked to a video of Gaetz talking about putting make up on for a television appearance.
Cheney’s allies have come to her aid. Former Republican Gov. Matt Mead joined a local newspaper op-ed touting her “courage” to perform her constitutional duty “irrespective of the personal or political cost she might pay.” And Wyoming Sen. John Barrasso has defended Cheney as an effective member of their state’s congressional delegation.
“Wyoming doesn’t like it when outsiders come into our state and try to tell us what to do,” said Amy Edmonds, a former state legislator and Cheney’s former communications director.
House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy has equivocated on his level of support for Cheney, saying she should remain in leadership but had “concerns” about her decision.
Gaetz said the only conversation he has had with McCarthy about his efforts to oust Cheney was after a recent television interview, when McCarthy asked him to stop referring to Cheney and others he was disagreeing with by name in light of the increase in death threats against members of Congress.
“I subsided referencing folks by name for about a day or two,” said Gaetz. “But after Liz became more, I think, problematic in her divergence from the perspective of the conference, it became untenable not to identify her as the key internal resistance within the Republican party to the American First Vision.”
Wyoming political observers said that Cheney, the daughter of the former Vice President Dick Cheney, would beat back the critical clamor.
“There’s going to be pushback but I don’t think it’s anything she can’t survive,” said Wyoming University political science professor Jim King.