Watch CNN’s Lucy Kafanov’s coverage from Cheyenne, Wyoming on “CNN Tonight with Don Lemon” Thursday at 10 p.m. ET.
“We are in a battle for the soul of the Republican party, and I intend to win it,” said Gaetz on Thursday. “You can help me break a corrupt system. You can send a representative who actually represents you, and you can send Liz Cheney home — back home to Washington, DC.”
“There has never been a greater betrayal by a President of the United States of his office and his oath to the Constitution,” Cheney said.
But Cheney’s decision has sparked a retaliation in Wyoming, which Trump won in 2020 with nearly 70% of the vote, the most of any state in the country.
And over 55,000 people have apparently signed onto a Change.org petition started by Wyoming resident Shelley Horn to “recall” Cheney. Horn told CNN she doesn’t consider herself a political person — she said she “usually” makes tutus and minds “my businesses” — but couldn’t stomach her congresswoman’s decision.
“You just can’t go, ‘Oh well, I need to vote with my conscience.’ No! Vote for what your people put you in there to do,” Horn told CNN. “You’re a Republican, you’re supposed to back your party regardless.”
Dr. Taylor Haynes, a Trump supporter who lost in the state’s 2018 gubernatorial Republican primary, told CNN, “In my view, she’s done in Wyoming.”
Gaetz and other Trump allies have pushed for Cheney to step down from her leadership position as conference chair of the House GOP. Now Gaetz, who represents the western panhandle of Florida, has taken the extraordinary step of campaigning against Cheney in her own state, and the interventionist foreign policy personified by her and her father, former Vice President Dick Cheney.
Thursday’s mostly maskless crowd was filled with signs both in support of Gaetz — “Impeach Cheney” — and the congresswoman — “Cheney Spoke Truth.”
coalesce around a single candidate to challenge her, as some people cheered for Bouchard. The Trump political operation commissioned a poll this week claiming that the impeachment vote has hurt Cheney’s popularity in the state.
“Liz Cheney’s favorables there are only slightly worse than her father’s shooting skills,” said Trump Jr.
A source in Cheney’s office dismissed Gaetz’s event as a publicity stunt, saying 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.
Gaetz responded at his event that makeup “only hides the slightest imperfections of the skin. It does very little to conceal the soulless corruption of Washington, DC.”
“We need a voice in Washington to continue to defend our industry,” said WMA executive director Travis Deti. “And it’s going to be more important now than it has been in the last few years because President Biden is not going to be friendly to us.”
Gale Geringer, a veteran Wyoming GOP political strategist, praised Cheney’s “courage” in casting the vote to impeach Trump despite the political pressures.
“I don’t underestimate the anger people are feeling right now. It’s huge. And Liz Cheney has become the target of that anger, but I don’t think she’s really the cause of it,” she said. “I think it’s fear of what the Biden administration is going to do to Wyoming. We’re petrified. Our entire economy, all of our jobs, our tax base has been threatened. And there’s nothing we can do about Joe Biden for four years. But we can take that fear and anger out on Liz Cheney.”
Wyoming political observers said that Cheney would beat back the critical clamor. And even some of the those in the state who agreed with Gaetz treated him with indifference.
“If he wants to come and do that, OK. It makes no difference,” said Haynes. “Wyoming is going to do things as we’ve always done.”
CNN’s Annie Grayer contributed to this report.