An apparent flight delay kept Rep. Liz Cheney, an outspoken critic of former President Donald Trump, from attending a scheduled fundraiser Monday in Salt Lake City for freshman Utah Rep. Blake Moore.
The $2,900 per person luncheon at the east-side home of Doug Foxley, a Republican and longtime lobbyist on Utah’s Capitol Hill, went on without her, but some wondered if inviting the Wyoming Republican might be politically risky for Moore.
As one observer who supports the Utah GOP congressman said: “What the hell are they doing?”
After a narrow GOP primary win last year, Moore easily beat the Democratic candidate in Utah’s conservative 1st Congressional District with nearly 70% of the vote. Trump captured about 64% of the vote in the district in 2020. The former president has taken direct aim at Cheney and endorsed her Republican challenger, Harriet Hageman, a one-time Cheney supporter and family friend.
Moore is unconcerned about how teaming up with Cheney to raise money might appear to voters. Trump loyalists might especially have a problem with it.
“This isn’t a statement on President Trump in any way. This is just me having lunch with a colleague,” he said outside of the Foxley home.
Moore said he reached out to Cheney a year ago — even before the November election — to start making relationships with House members who could help him get the committee assignments he believed were important to the district, which includes Hill Air Force Base. Cheney was instrumental in landing him on the House Armed Services Committee, of which she also is a member.
“I’ve had a great relationship with Rep. Cheney for over a year now,” he said.
Moore called the fundraising event “not that big a deal” and that he did the same thing with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy last month. “I work with everybody,” Moore said.
McCarthy, R-Calif., and his top deputies orchestrated Cheney’s ouster as chairwoman of the House Republican Conference last May. He and his allies complained that Cheney’s constant readiness to call out Trump’s lies about the 2020 election was a distraction that prevented the party from unifying around a cohesive message to win back the House next year.
Moore was the only one of Utah’s four GOP congressmen to stand behind Cheney, voting to allow her to remain the No. 3 House Republican and the highest-ranking woman in the caucus. He said his support for Cheney wasn’t a consideration when he asked her to the luncheon.
BYU political science professor Chris Karpowitz called Moore inviting Cheney for a fundraiser “fascinating.”
On one hand, she’s strongly conservative in her policy positions and a well-known politician from a neighboring state, he said. On the other, she has drawn Trump’s ire for consistently strong criticism of him, especially his actions on Jan. 6.
“I expect that including Cheney will anger or frustrate the strongest Trump supporters within the party, but it may help with those who are looking for a return to more traditional forms of conservatism or who seek a post-Trump vision for Republicans,” said Karpowitz, co-director of the Center for the Study of Elections and Democracy at BYU.
If Moore is interested in pursuing a form of Republicanism that is distinct from Trump, then this is one way of signaling that, he added.
Moore said Cheney has a message to share and many Republicans respect her.
“This is a bigger party than any one individual,” he said, including Trump. “He’s definitely got a place. But it’s not the singular voice for the party, in my opinion.”
The Wyoming race
In a recent interview on “60 Minutes,” Cheney called her race the most important House race in the country in 2022, one where people have the opportunity to say, “We want to stand for the Constitution.”
“A vote against me in this race, a vote for whomever Donald Trump has endorsed is a vote for somebody who’s willing to perpetuate the big lie, somebody who’s willing to put allegiance to Trump above allegiance to the Constitution, absolutely,” Cheney said.
Cheney was one of 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump after the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. She is one of two Republicans that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., named to the House committee investigating that attack. Moore voted for the bill to create an investigative commission that passed the House but failed in the Senate.
Moore did not vote to impeach Trump. But he broke ranks with many in the GOP on the vote to certify the 2020 presidential election. He did not join the 121 Republicans who voted to exclude Arizona from the presidential election and the 138, including Utah Republican Reps. Chris Stewart and Burgess Owens, who voted the same for Pennsylvania.
When he voted against the majority in his party on his third day in office, Moore said he realized he could make seemingly hard and unpopular decisions. He told the Deseret News then that voting to strip electoral votes from a sovereign state is a dangerous precedent, and that he didn’t hear anything to justify it.
Karpowitz said he also wonders if the Moore-Cheney fundraiser is a signal that the West as a region may offer some models for the future of the Republican Party that do not involve a primary allegiance to Trump.
As Cheney and Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, exemplify, there seems to be more space for such an approach in the West than in the South, another strongly Republican region, he said.
But, Karpowitz said, with Trump showing strong interest in another run for president, those regional distinctions may not have space to develop, and moving to a different model might be difficult and complicated.