There are some states, such as California (population 38,000,000), where it is incredibly difficult to get elected to any statewide office, say, for example, the U.S. Senate. To win in a state like California (there isn't any other state like California, actually), you need tens of millions of dollars, a lot of upfront name ID, and the ability to convince a bunch of wildly disparate groups that you're the right person. To get through a primary election alone, I think you would need several million votes.
In a state like Wyoming (population 574,000), you need to meet virtually every voter in the state personally, or get very close to doing so. Political analysts estimate you would need about 55,000 votes to win a GOP primary for the U.S. Senate.
55,000 votes. That's probably fewer people than the number of folks who shop at Arden Fair Mall on Saturday afternoon.
So when Liz Cheney, who is the daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, decided to enter the GOP primary against Wyoming Sen. Mike Enzi, a lot of people inside Wyoming became, um, concerned. A person who has basically made her living being her father's devoted daughter living in Washington, D.C. and running her mouth on Fox News as a guest, Liz Cheney has caused a great deal of consternation in her father's state.
Never miss a local story.
Not hers. Her father's. She moved there last fall.
Sen. Enzi is pretty popular in Wyoming, and known as one of the few GOP senators who employs logic and reason in his dealings back in Washington. That's a rare commodity, and he's baffled why Cheney would challenge him. So is the incumbent GOP congresswoman. Enzi and Cheney used to be pals; they would fly fish together. Cheney hasn't called his old buddy since his daughter moved out there.
Hmm. Maybe he has other priorities.
Liz Cheney is challenging Enzi because she knows that the old rules are almost completely destroyed.
A. Do something substantive on your own hook.
B. Ask around and see if anyone supports you.
C. Maybe actually spend more than a year in the state you want to serve in the U.S. Senate.
The New Rules are:
A. Have a famous name.
B. Be on television a lot.
To his credit, Dick Cheney is from Wyoming, was the White House Chief of Staff (a rather demanding job) before he ran for congress, and is generally regarded as a very smart operator, if now completely unhinged. When he got to Congress, he became the Number 3 person in the House GOP leadership.
Liz Cheney, through her father's connections, served in a few Created-Just-For-Her state department jobs and was a Fox News personality. She's an attorney who graduated from the University of Chicago, indeed a very challenging institution. I'm not saying she's not smart. I'm saying she had all her doors opened for her.
That's not illegal. Some of our country's best known political leaders had famous, politically-connected, wealthy fathers. But when the entire GOP political leadership in Wyoming, including the highly-regarded former senator Alan Simpson (whose father was a Wyoming senator, incidentally), sees Cheney's entry into the race as perplexing, it's more than perplexing.
It's the New Rules.
She knows that she's got a good chance of beating someone who, frankly, doesn't really deserve to lose.
She knows she only needs to convince about 55,000 people, many of whom probably are very persuadable if she runs to Enzi's right. After all, she was on Fox News, and my guess is that a lot of people watch Fox News in Wyoming.
So if you want to be in the U.S. Senate, leave California. You probably have to run a major city or sit in the U.S. House for 15 years before you'll even get a look.
In Wyoming, you'll probably get a seat.
And if you're Sen. Mike Enzi, you will realize you will realize that your fishing trip with Dick Cheney just ended.
And turned into a hunting trip with Dick Cheney.