Pressure on GOP eases a bit after Liz Cheney drops Senate bid

Liz Cheney, the daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, abruptly ended her primary challenge to Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., citing family health issues. 

Politically, Cheney's departure from the race takes heat not only off Enzi but also takes a little pressure off the Republican Party as a whole. In a year when the party sees a chance to retake the Senate, many had worried that internal primary fights could prove a distraction from offering a unified national message, particularly as they're coming in what should be slam-dunk Senate contests.  

Liz Cheney's tricky road to the Senate
 Cheney, with her high profile and famous name, was arguably the best known of the primary challengers from the Republicans' right, which likely would have given her arguments a national platform beyond Wyoming. That said, as many as seven high profile Senate Republicans including Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, Thad Cochran of Mississippi and John Cornyn of Texas have also drawn challenges of some sort from the right - meaning 2014's primary season remains a potentially tumultuous one for Republicans.

This was never a race the party (or at least, the so-called establishment, which is usually shorthand for long-term incumbents) expected to see as Enzi, like the aforementioned senators, had assembled a solidly conservative record by most accounts. In the early going, much of the campaign rhetoric first centered on why Cheney was running, and whether there was any ideological space between she and Enzi. It also centered on residency and whether Cheney had lived in Wyoming long enough to represent it - as well as a high-profile dispute within the family over the issue of same sex marriage.

Judging by the early phase of the campaign, for Cheney much of the race was going to hinge as much on approach to governance as strict ideology: she - like other primary challengers to sitting Republicans - was trying to make the case that the incumbent had compromised too much (or, at all) with Democrats, or voted for too many budget deals, and that he (and they) arguably needed replacing just by virtue of having been in D.C. so long. 

Cheney may have left the 2014 race, but the kinds of sentiments that propelled her into it are still being voiced by the tea party and conservative right, as they're also symptomatic of a larger disgruntlement with Washington that spans the public more broadly. And they'll likely remain a central narrative in 2014.