Liz Cheney, the eldest daughter of former vice president Dick Cheney, announced plans Tuesday to challenge Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) in 2014, setting up an unexpected and probably costly primary contest as the Republican Party seeks to retake control of the U.S. Senate.
Enzi fielded questions from dozens of reporters Tuesday afternoon shortly after he voted against the nomination of Richard Cordray to lead the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. His Cowboy State colleague, Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), stood by his side during the exchange and also fielded questions.
Below is a partial transcript of their remarks. The questions are paraphrased, while the responses are direct quotes.
Question: Sen. Enzi, what do you make of Liz Cheney's decision to run against you next year?
Enzi: “Well, she said that if I ran she wasn’t going to run, but obviously that wasn’t correct.”
Question: Did she call you to tell you the news?
Enzi: “No, well, she called me a long time ago and said she was considering it.”
Question: What is your relationship with Liz Cheney?
Enzi: “I thought we were friends.”
Question: But not anymore?
Enzi: “Well, I don’t have any reason not to. She hasn’t said anything she’s going to do or said anything bad about me yet.”
Question: Are you at all concerned with Cheney's potential fundraising prowess, considering her ties to the former vice president and the Bush administration?
Enzi: “Money raising’s always been a problem for me.”
Question: Does her challenge give you any second thoughts about reelection?
Question: Do you think she has any particular weakness that is going to make it more difficult for her to win?
Enzi: “My job is to be the U.S. senator that I was elected to be until at least January of 2015. The people of Wyoming expect me to do the job, I do it pretty much full time. I’m in Wyoming almost every weekend, here during the time that we’re voting out here. I won’t be doing anything different than I’ve been doing, getting the opinions of the Wyoming people and traveling Wyoming and doing my job out here.”
Question: She’s been living in Virginia -- couldn't you make that a campaign issue?
Enzi: “I’m not going to comment on her or what she might be running on. I’m doing my job the way I see it needs to be done, and I’ll continue to do that.”
Question to Sen. Barrasso: Do you support Enzi?
Barrasso: “Yes. Senator Enzi is my friend, he is my mentor, he is a tremendous senator for the people of Wyoming, and I plan to support him for reelection. I am supporting him for reelection.
Question to Barrasso: What do you think of Cheney?
Barrasso: “I think she’s very talented and has a bright future.”
Question to Enzi: Do you expect former vice president Richard Cheney to help her campaign?
Enzi: “He hasn’t talked to me about it at all, but I would expect that he would be. It’s his daughter.”
Question: Do you have plans to reevaluate your own candidacy six months from now or early next year? Or are you in for it all?
Enzi: “I haven’t been evaluating or reevaluating. I’m doing my job. It’s kind of interesting that about 30 minutes after I put out a release saying I intend to run that she put out one saying that she was running.”
Question: Why is that interesting?
Enzi: “Well, she’s watching pretty closely what I’m doing and timing it around that. That’s different than what she was saying before that if I didn’t run she would run.”
Question: Does Cheney's decision change your ground game? Will you get on the phone tonight and start calling donors?
Enzi: “No, I have a lot of work to do here. I’m really involved in the tax reform and in a pension bill with Sen. Harkin that will make it easier for small companies to get pensions for retirement for their people. I’ve got a lot of work to do. Nobody in Wyoming likes a long campaign – anybody from Wyoming would know that. They’ll be able to make up their mind in a lot less time than from right now until next August, which is when the primary is. You can’t even file in Wyoming until May.”
Read more on Cheney's decision here.