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The Cheney Government in Exile


In terms of organization and money, Liz Cheney would have access to her father’s legacy financial backers. Keep America Safe is partly funded by Mel Sembler, a top donor to the Bush-Cheney campaigns and a longtime family friend who’s encouraging Liz to run for Senate in Wyoming. “Wherever she wants to run,” says Sembler, “I’d be happy to support her.”

Like Hillary Clinton, Liz Cheney is an intensely polarizing figure, both blessed and saddled with a political brand name. “The big question is, if she runs for Senate, would Dad be a political asset on the campaign trail?” asks David Kennerly.

Several Republican operatives I spoke with said Cheney would need to define herself apart from her father. “It’s necessary to lay out your own views and values,” says Karl Rove. “She has to establish her own identity.”

Which might be difficult, as there are no instances on record where Liz has diverged from her father’s message. For her fans, of course, that’s precisely what makes her so appealing. “Dick Cheney does not waver on his core beliefs. Nor does Liz,” says Rush Limbaugh, who e-mails with Liz regularly. “She does not think in terms of defining herself. She knows who she is. She does not have to construct an image because she is genuine. It is blank slates like Obama who need to ‘define’ themselves.”

Her friend Elliott Abrams says any attempt at attacking the daughter for her father’s name will only get opponents so far. “If you have a woman candidate and what you’re saying is, ‘Don’t pay any attention to what she’s saying, just pay attention to her father,’ it’s not going to be very long before people say, ‘What kind of crap is that? This is sexism,’ ” he says. “It’s a little dangerous for the Democrats if they go that route.”

The cynical view is that talk of Liz’s political future is only fodder for the rollout of Dick’s memoir, a marketing campaign to prep the news cycle for its release a year from now. The Virginia Senate seat wouldn’t exactly be easy pickings. A longtime Cheney ally and past donor told me that he would back either Ed Gillespie, the former Republican National Committee chairman, or former Virginia senator George Allen, the more prominent and proven names likely to vie for that Senate seat, before he would back Liz Cheney. And the governor of Virginia, Republican Bob McDonnell, who has an outsize influence in the state’s nomination process, barely knows the Cheneys. (Limbaugh, however, says he would back the “formidable” Cheney over Gillespie or Allen.)

But the Cheneys, ever cognizant of history, take the long view. And they seem to like a righteous campaign, even if—perhaps even especially if—the odds are against them. Liz offers her father both a way of managing his legacy and a future for his ideas. “It used to be Bush,” says a former Bush White House official. “Now it’s Liz.”


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