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Republican Liz Cheney loses to Trump-backed candidate in Wyoming primary: What does it mean for GOP?

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Republican Liz Cheney loses to Trump-backed candidate in Wyoming primary: What does it mean for GOP?

Republican Liz Cheney loses to Trump-backed candidate in Wyoming primary: What does it mean for GOP? 

Congresswoman Liz Cheney, a staunch critic of Donald Trump and one of the few Republicans to hold the former US President accountable for the January 6 insurrection, was ousted by voters in the US state of Wyoming in a primary election on Wednesday.

She lost to Trump-backed candidate Harriet Hageman, a relative newcomer, who will now go forward to the mid-term elections scheduled to be held in November.

Two years ago, in 2020, the three-term conservative Representative won the Wyoming primary with 73 percent votes. Notably, the same year, around 70 percent of voters in the red state had voted for Trump.

What does Cheney's drubbing say about GOP and the future of US politics?

Cheney's defeat doesn't just signify the strong support Trump enjoys in conservative-leaning states but also shows how the electoral fate of the contesting Republican candidate depends on their attitude towards the ex-President.

It is also a reflection of a deeper problem within the Republican Party -- the shift from conservatism (represented by the Bush-era administration) to far-right populism (represented by Trump).

For instance, Cheney is not the only Republican to be ousted or sidelined for taking an anti-Trump stand. Of the 10 House Republicans who voted in favour of Trump’s impeachment last year, three lost their primaries before Cheney.

In her concession speech, Cheney said winning re-election "would have required that I go along with President Trump’s lie."

Christine Matthews, a GOP pollster and strategist, pointed to a similar problem while speaking to Los Angeles Times. He was quoted as saying, "This is not the Republican Party of the ’80s, the ’90s or even the early 2000s... What it means to be a Republican these days … is being loyal to your tribe. It is not about issues. It’s basically whatever Trump says it is."'

The recent surge in Trump-backed candidates winning congressional primaries comes after a lull when candidates he pitched for lost in traditionally Republican states such as Georgia.

Who is Republican enough?

Cheney's loss also signals towards an identity crisis among the Conservatives who don't endorse the Trump brand of politics, within the Grand Old Party.

Cheney, for instance, is as Republican as one can get. She is against abortion rights, a climate change denier, and she voted in line with Trump's agenda about 93 percent of the time when he was President. She did all the 'right' things a Republican is supposed to do. But it seems that toeing party lines is not enough to prove your loyalty to the GOP anymore. Being a blind Trump supporter is the new acid test for Republicans.

Her decision to vote to impeach the former President in January 2021 led to her ouster as GOP conference chair. A year later, the Republican National Committee took the unprecedented step of formally censuring her for serving on the House January 6 committee.

Graver crisis looming?

Other political observers pointed to an even greater problem -- the 2024 elections. Wyoming poll result points to a national election where Republican positions are defined by their most extreme anti-democratic voices – with Trump at the top of the ticket, said David Smith, The Guardian's Washington DC bureau chief.

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