Liz Cheney, the daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, dove headlong into her first run for political office Tuesday, announcing an unusual bid to unseat Wyoming's incumbent Republican senator, Mike Enzi.
Cheney, 46, who moved from Virginia to Wyoming last year to assay a possible run, made her intentions known in a six-minute YouTube video released 30 minutes after Enzi declared his intentions to seek a fourth term.
The Republican lacerated President Obama and "his liberal allies" — after going on at some length about her family's deep Wyoming roots — but never mentioned the name of her opponent, a reliable and well-liked conservative. The closest she came to criticism was a suggestion that it was time "for a new generation of leadership to step up to the plate."
Enzi, a family friend of the Cheneys, appeared caught off-guard. Speaking in Washington, he said he received no heads-up before the announcement. "She said that if I ran she wasn't going to run, but obviously that wasn't correct," Enzi told reporters in the Capitol. "I thought we were friends."
Enzi's colleagues were quick to rally to the incumbent, vowing to place the party's campaign machinery behind his reelection bid. Sen. Jerry Moran of Kansas, the chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, said he would use party resources to back Enzi in the primary, even if that meant diverting money from the GOP's larger effort to win control of the Senate in the fall.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said he would support Enzi, as did his Wyoming colleague, Republican Sen. John Barrasso, who stood by Enzi's side during his impromptu news conference.
Cheney, the elder of two Cheney daughters, is "very talented and has a bright future," Barrasso said, but Enzi "is a tremendous senator" deserving of another term.
Enzi, who won office in 1996, has a history of easy reelections, though he conceded he has never been a strong fundraiser. Money shouldn't be a problem for Cheney, who has both nationwide name recognition and the benefit of the extensive political network her father, a former Wyoming congressman, built over the decades.
Cheney has long been an informal advisor to her father and an outspoken voice in conservative circles, especially on defense and foreign policy issues. During the administration of President George W. Bush and her father, she worked in the State Department and the Agency for International Development in Washington. Shortly after her announcement, Fox News said it would end her role as a paid on-air commentator.
The contest, which promises to be a marquee race in 2014, is unlikely to affect the balance of power in the Senate. Wyoming is a staunchly Republican state, and the winner of the primary seems almost certain to win the general election.
"A bright, shiny object" was how Jennifer Duffy, an analyst with the nonpartisan Cook Political Report, described the contest: Interesting but ultimately a diversion from more important races.