House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy on Thursday endorsed Representative Liz Cheney’s Republican opponent in the race for Wyoming’s lone congressional seat, taking the unusual step of intervening in a party primary to oust a one-time ally who has become the primary political target of former President Donald J. Trump.
Ms. Hageman, a pro-Trump candidate who has repeated the former president’s baseless assertions that the 2020 presidential election was stolen, has received Mr. McCarthy’s endorsement. The contest has emerged as a major litmus test for the Republican Party.
Earlier this month, Mr. McCarthy said he was looking forward to welcoming Harriet to the next Republican majority in Congress, “where together, we can hold the Biden administration responsible and provide much-needed solutions for the American people.” “The most effective members of Congress are those who are concerned about the needs of their people.”
For a leader who hopes to be elected Speaker of the House if his party gains control of the House in November’s midterm legislative elections, it was a remarkable decision. He has worked hard to maintain a delicate balance between his extreme right fringe and more mainstream conservatives.
Congressional leaders rarely intervene in primary elections against sitting members, but Mr. McCarthy’s move was the latest escalation in the Republican Party’s effort to expel Ms. Cheney for her strong opposition to President Donald Trump and her participation in a House investigation into the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. After initially protecting her, Mr. McCarthy spearheaded a campaign last year to remove Ms. Cheney from her position as No. 3 in the House Republican leadership hierarchy.
An official spokesperson for Vice President Cheney, Jeremy Adler, issued a statement in which he implied that Mr. McCarthy’s public support for Ms. Hageman was an indication of his own insufficiency.
Following the Republican National Committee’s decision to condemn Ms. Cheney and Representative Adam Kinzinger, a Republican from Illinois, for their participation in the investigation into the tragic Capitol riot, Mr. McCarthy’s support came roughly two weeks later. This was the party’s strongest indication to date that it viewed the riot and the attempts to overturn the 2020 presidential election that sparked it justified. The resolution said that the duo was participating in “persecution of ordinary individuals engaged in lawful political dialogue.”
Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader, on the other hand, chastised the party for doing so, adding that “traditionally, the perspective of the national party committees has been that we support all members of our party, regardless of their stance on certain issues.”
Ms. Hageman has already received the support of President Donald Trump as well as Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, a Republican. Despite the fact that she has been effectively expelled from her party, Ms. Cheney, who has represented her state since 2017, outraised her opponent by a wide margin.
Ms. Cheney earned $2 million in the most recent quarter, putting her in a position to enter 2022 with roughly $5 million in cash on hand. Despite the outspoken support of Mr. Trump and his family members, Ms. Hageman raised $443,000 in the previous quarter and now has around $380,000 in cash on hand.
In reality, the endorsement revealed just as much about Mr. McCarthy’s concern of upsetting President Bush — and the hard-right edge of his caucus — as it did about whether or not it would provide any serious support to Ms. Hageman’s presidential bid in the general election. She was the main House Republican who voted to impeach Mr. Trump in January, after the attack on the Capitol, and has since emerged as the prominent voice of Republican resistance to his effort to reverse the results of the 2020 election.
When it comes to maintaining the support of his diverse caucus, where fealty to Mr. Trump is critical to many members, Mr. McCarthy cannot risk alienating Mr. Trump, who maintains an amicable working relationship with him and has attempted to assist him in shaping his endorsements of House candidates ahead of the midterm elections.
Mr. Trump on Thursday supported a proposal to amend Wyoming’s election rules to prohibit voters from changing their party allegiance after the filing date for primary elections. The plan is an attempt to prevent Democrats from switching parties in order to vote for Ms. Cheney in the Democratic primary for president.