Tonight’s the night of the first Wyoming House GOP primary debate and all you really need to know about it is contained in this sentence: “Thursday’s debate hosted by Wyoming PBS in Sheridan will be closed to the public for security reasons and to prevent people from disrupting the event, the station’s General Manager Terry Dugas said in a statement.”
Technically there’ll be five candidates onstage but the race is a choice between Liz Cheney and her Trump-backed opponent, former Never Trumper Harriet Hageman. This is the first opportunity MAGA fans will have had in many months to see Cheney confronted directly about her criticism of Trump. There are no anti-Trumpers on the January 6 committee, of course, and Cheney no longer appears at caucus events with House Republicans where she might be challenged. The pressure will be on tonight to see how she handles it.
Although I think there’s more pressure on Hageman. The last thing a Trump-backed candidate can afford is to be seen as weak or unwilling to fight. If Cheney keeps her on the defensive, it could tilt some MAGA voters towards one of the populist alternatives on the ballot instead. Which would be fine by Cheney — her goal tonight is to weaken Hageman and hope that the anti-Cheney vote splits among the rest of the field. She can win a primary if no one gets above 30 percent. She can’t win one if it’s a one-on-one between her and Hageman.
My guess is that, if she has the debate of her life, she ends up losing in August by a mere 20 points instead of 40.
The event begins at 9 p.m. ET, 8 p.m. CT. She spoke yesterday at the Reagan Library and got a round of applause for saying, “Republicans cannot both be loyal to Donald Trump and loyal to the Constitution.” The audience tonight will be less receptive.