Poll: Hageman holds big lead

CASPER — Former President Donald Trump’s candidate to unseat Rep. Liz Cheney in the race for Wyoming’s single House seat holds a colossal 29-point lead over the incumbent with days until the primary, a new University of Wyoming poll finds. 

Natural resources attorney Harriet Hageman leads Cheney 57% to 28%, according to a Wyoming Survey & Analysis Center/School of Politics, Public Affairs and International Studies/Wyoming Public Media survey. 

Sen. Anthony Bouchard, R-Burns, polled at 2%, while 10% of likely Republican voters say they are still undecided. 

Wyoming’s House race is among the most closely watched in the nation. 

Cheney has become one of Trump’s biggest political adversaries, and the contest is seen as part of a larger battle between traditional and hard-line Republicans. Cheney’s vote to impeach the former president after the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol and her relentless criticism of Trump as a threat to democracy and the rule of law have spurred the toughest reelection fight of her career. 

In September, Trump selected Hageman from several challengers as his pick to take on Cheney. 

Of those who said they’d vote for Cheney, 66% indicated “their vote was an expression of support for the incumbent congresswoman.” 

A mere 29% of respondents expecting to vote for another candidate said they were supporting that candidate, while 41% said their vote was in opposition to Cheney. 

“The race for the Republican nomination appears to be a referendum on Cheney, as it usually is when an incumbent seeks reelection,” Jim King, a professor of political science at UW, said in a press release on the poll. 

Retired Army colonel Denton Knapp and small business owner Robyn Belinskey, who both garnered below 1% in the UW poll, are also challenging Cheney. The poll also surveyed some of the state’s Democrats, a significant number of whom say they’re changing their voter registration to be able to vote for Cheney in the Republican primary. 

The UW poll found that of the respondents who identify as Democrats and likely voters, about half say they would vote in the Republican primary. 

And of those, 98 % say they’ll vote for Cheney. 

Among likely voters in the primary who identify as independent (or unaffiliated), the candidates are much closer with 41% supporting Hageman and 43% supporting Cheney. 

But independents, let alone Democrats, don’t make up a large portion of the electorate to move the needle for Cheney — of the likely voters polled, 8% identified as Democrats and 21% identified as independents. 

“Back-of-the-napkin math says that number could represent as many as 20,000 votes in the GOP primary from currently registered Democrats, compared to as many as 200,000-plus votes from registered Republicans,” Harnisch said. “It does not appear at the time of this survey the numbers are there for party switching to have a significant effect on the outcome of this race.” 

The survey was conducted from July 25 to Aug. 6, yielding 836 responses from Wyoming residents, including 562 who identified as likely voters in the primary. 

Primary polls don’t typically survey randomly, but instead rely on voter registration lists, a decision that the group made intentionally, said Brian Harnisch, director of WYSAC. 

“Given the unique attention this race is receiving, and the accompanying increases in voter registration and potential party switching, we decided to field this survey to a random sample of all Wyoming residents on cellphones and landlines and work to identify likely voters in the GOP primary,” Harnisch said. “When looking only at residents who say they are Republican and likely voters in the primary, we actually see Hageman leading by roughly 50 points.” 

The university poll had similar findings to a recent poll that the Star-Tribune performed with Mason-Dixon Polling & Strategy in early July. The Star-Tribune poll found that Cheney trails Hageman by 22 points compared to the 29 points that the university came up with. 

Months earlier, a poll funded by Club for Growth, a national conservative political action committee (PAC) that has been in the business of unseating Cheney for over a year, found that Hageman leads Cheney by 30 points. 

When asked, 56% of participants said they would vote for Hageman if the election were held today, as opposed to 26% for Cheney and 12% for state Sen. Anthony Bouchard, R-Burns. Six percent were undecided. 

The poll was conducted from May 24-25, a couple of days before Trump’s visit to Casper to rally support for Hageman. 

Club for Growth has so far spent nearly $60,000 in Cheney opposition efforts. 

In past elections, Cheney has handily beaten her primary opponent. And given that Wyoming is one of the nation’s most conservative states, the Republican House nominee often coasts to victory in the general election. 

But the Wyoming Republican Party has turned on Cheney, censuring her soon after Trump’s impeachment and voting last fall to no longer recognize her as a member of the GOP. 

Both the Hageman and Bouchard campaigns declined to comment, but the Cheney campaign pointed the Star-Tribune to the congresswoman’s closing campaign message, which she released Thursday. 

“America cannot remain free if we abandon the truth. The lie that 2020 presidential election was stolen is insidious. It preys on those who love their country. It is a door Donald Trump opened to manipulate Americans to abandon their principles, to sacrifice their freedom, to justify violence, to ignore the rulings of our courts and the rule of law,” Cheney begins. “No matter how long we must fight, this is a battle we will win. Millions of Americans across our nation— Republicans, Democrats, Independents—stand united in the cause of freedom.”