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Liz Cheney's Senate ambition causes grief for Wyoming GOP

Liz Cheney, daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, is eyeing a Senate seat in Wyoming, a state her father once represented in the House of Representatives.

There's only one problem: The seat Cheney covets is already held by a Republican, Sen. Mike Enzi, a friend and former fly-fishing partner of her father's. And as her designs on the seat become increasingly apparent, the state's Republican establishment is growing concerned that her ambition may tear the Wyoming GOP apart, the New York Times reports.

Cheney, who grew up in Virginia due to her father's rotating roles in public service but moved to Wyoming in 2012, called Enzi this year to tell him she may challenge him in a primary race in 2014.

"She called me and said she's looking at it," Enzi told the New York Times, adding that Cheney did not bother to ask him whether he plans to run again.

Enzi said he hadn't heard from his "good friend" Dick Cheney recently, but "I would expect that he'd call before" his daughter declares her candidacy.

The former vice president, since rebounding from a recent heart transplant, has been more active in political circles of late. According to the Times, Republicans spotted Dick and Liz Cheney together at the Crook County Lincoln Day Dinner, and Dick Cheney has spoken with Republican donors in New York about his daughter's prospective candidacy.

Enzi, a soft-spoken lawmaker, is not exactly prime fodder for a conservative primary challenger. In his time on Capitol Hill, he has eschewed the limelight and cultivated a steadfastly conservative voting record, avoiding the pitfalls that have felled several other Republican incumbents in recent primary elections.

Despite this prudent approach, the knock on Enzi may be that he's simply too quiet, too willing to talk with Democrats and not an aggressive enough advocate for conservative causes. Enzi believes his role in passing an Internet sales tax may also provide ammunition for Cheney.

Liz Cheney, a former State Department official under former President George W. Bush, is as outspoken as Enzi is demure, which could be an asset in a Republican primary. But she and the Cheney family have also been frequently absent from the state in recent years, spending most of their time in and around Washington, D.C. If she's successfully tagged as a carpetbagger, it could spell trouble for her potential bid.

Cheney may also want to take stock of Enzi's friends in the Wyoming GOP before deciding to take the plunge. In a local television interview last month, according to the Times, the state's sole congresswoman, Republican Rep. Cynthia Lummis, declared she would support Enzi if he ran again and, in an apparent swipe at Cheney, promised to run if Enzi didn't.

If Cheney runs against Enzi, it will cause the "destruction of the Republican Party of Wyoming," former Sen. Alan Simpson, a Republican, told the Times. "It's a disaster -- a divisive, ugly situation -- and all it does is open the door for the Democrats for 20 years."

Douglas W. Chamberlain, a former Wyoming House speaker, told the Times he knows of "no one who doesn't want Mike Enzi to run for Senate again."

Enzi, laughing quietly, replied, "There's at least one person out there who wants me to retire."

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