It’s still early, but Wyoming’s marquee Liz Cheney-Mike Enzi U.S. Senate race has already had no end of entertaining, if most likely irrelevant, side events.
First came a squabble over an autographed football, an episode that underscored how very intimate and personal politics are in Wyoming, a state with fewer than 600,000 far-flung residents.
That dust-up provides a bit of context, but no more gravitas, to the latest controversy (a word used advisedly) over whether, precisely, Enzi can be described as a “fishing buddy” of former Vice President Dick Cheney, father of the insurgent challenger.
The elder Cheney, appearing Sunday on ABC’s “This Week With George Stephanopoulos,” firmly rejected the notion that he and the three-term Republican incumbent had bonded mano-a-mano with their hip waders and fly rods. “Never happened,” Cheney, a former Wyoming congressman, said.
For his part, Enzi never went so far as to suggest he and Cheney were fishing buddies. In an interview last month, Enzi allowed as how he and Cheney had once teamed up in a celebrity fly-fishing tournament and recalled speaking at the ceremony inducting the former vice president into the fly-fishing hall of fame. That, he said, was pretty much the extent of their ichthyologic activities.
(Might the vice president’s assault on Enzi be an effort to neutralize his daughter’s own fish-related scandal, the fine she paid for an improper in-state fishing license? While Liz Cheney blamed a clerical error, the episode played into the foremost challenge of her campaign, dispelling the notion she parachuted into Wyoming after decades away simply to seek office.)
Either way, the buddy brouhaha seems unlikely to move a whole lot of GOP primary voters one way or the other.
More substantively, the Casper Star-Tribune has pored through the Senate candidates’ campaign finance reports, finding that both candidates, for all their invocations of Wyoming values, are counting heavily on outsiders to pay for their election efforts.
Cheney, who raised just over $1 million in the first three months of her campaign, collected cash from nearly 2,000 individuals. Only 25% of her contributions were from Wyoming donors, the newspaper reported.
Enzi, by contrast, relied heavily on political action committees, collecting just under $850,000. Just 13% of his cash came from Wyoming sources.
Perhaps the most interesting part of the reports were the names of individuals who gave money -- or didn’t.
Among those donating to Liz Cheney were former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, a longtime friend and associate of her father, and former U.S. Atty. Gen. Michael Mukasey, who, like Dick Cheney, served in George W. Bush’s administration. Naturally, Mom and Dad contributed to their daughter’s campaign as well.
One notable absence: Mary Cheney, who did not take well to her older sister’s August pronouncement on same-sex marriage.
“I am strongly pro-life and I am not pro-gay marriage,” Liz Cheney said in a written statement. “I believe the issue of marriage must be decided by the states, and by the people in the states, not by judges and not even by legislators, but by the people themselves.”
“I love my sister,” responded Mary Cheney, who is gay and married to a longtime partner. “But she is dead wrong.”