Cheney, Murkowski opposed Trump but face divergent primaries

Elections 2022

(NewsNation) — Two Republican candidates who have spoken out against former President Donald Trump are faring differently among voters heading into Tuesday’s primary elections in their home states.

U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., and U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, each have positioned themselves against Trump to some degree. But while support for Cheney continues to fall, Murkowski’s approval ratings are climbing.

Cheney, vice chair of the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection, has accused the former president of “preying on (Americans’) patriotism” and turning “their love of country into a weapon.”

Her involvement on the Jan. 6 committee could cost her Republican votes. According to the results of a University of Wyoming survey released Thursday, Cheney is trailing her opponent, Trump-backed candidate Harriet Hageman, by nearly 30 points.

Cheney’s increasingly staunch opposition to Trump hasn’t made her re-election efforts easier, said Niall Stanage, a White House columnist with The Hill. 

“She took such a starring role in the Jan. 6 committee hearings, that it makes it really difficult to see a road back for her in a Republican primary,” Stanage said.

Fellow GOP lawmaker Murkowski has fared better, despite having voted to convict Trump on charges of incitement of insurrection after the Jan. 6 attack.

Murkowski also was one of three Republicans to vote to confirm Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court. 

Unlike Cheney, nearly half of Alaska voters, 46%, approve of Murkowski’s job performance, according to the latest quarterly data from Morning Consult. Her popularity has improved more than almost any other senator throughout President Joe Biden’s presidency.

“Lisa Murkowski is not such a high-profile figure in the perceived anti-Trump or never-Trump strand of the Republican Party,” Stanage said.

Still, Murkowski’s road to re-election has its challenges. Her primary opponent, former Alaska Department of Administration Commissioner Kelly Tshibaka, has Trump’s endorsement.

While some Trump-backed candidates have been successful in their own primary races, it’s unclear how the recent FBI search of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago property might impact the former president’s stamp of approval.

“When this story first broke, by which I mean the raid on Mar-a-Lago, I didn’t really see it having that much effect on Republican primaries because the contours of most Republican primaries are pretty well set,” Stanage said. “As time has gone on, I’ve become less sure of my own opinion in that respect because it seems to me that the Trump base … has been really inflamed by this.”

A question no one can answer, Stanage said, is whether that “inflammation of passions” will make Americans more likely to vote for a pro-Trump primary candidate.

“I’m still skeptical that it does,” Stanage said. “But I wouldn’t completely rule it out just because that sentiment seems to be coursing through that strand of the Republican Party so strongly right now.”

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