Why run against Mike Enzi?

Liz Cheney announced Tuesday that she will run for the Wyoming Senate seat currently occupied by three-term Sen. Mike Enzi (R). Enzi is very conservative, but so low-profile as to be invisible. He is not associated with any significant legislative accomplishment. Cheney released a video explaining her views and rationale for running:

Moreover, in 2007, with troops in the field, Enzi sided with liberal Democrats including Sens. Hillary Clinton (N.Y.) and Barack Obama (Ill.) to cut off funding for the Iraq war just as the surge was turning the tide. He was one of only 14 senators, and three Republicans, to oppose the appropriations bill. Perhaps his willingness to leave the troops high and dry is why Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) has so vigorously endorsed him.

But to be candid, Enzi’s voting record is not problematic; he’s simply been a go-alonger with no record of leadership on much of anything. If he didn’t have a primary challenger, Wyoming voters would have no real reason to dump him. But the question Cheney poses is whether the voters can do better.

In one regard, there is no doubt that Cheney would bring something more to the Senate: gravitas and expertise on national security. Foreign policy experts and former officials on the right will concede off the record that expertise and vigor on national security is becoming more and more scarce in the Senate. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) have retired. Moderate Democrats with centrist views on national security (such as Evan Bayh) have left, as well. In their place is a growing mass of extreme isolationists and gleeful slashers of the Pentagon budget. Like Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), Cheney would represent a much-needed new generation of pro-defense Republicans (as would Rep. Tom Cotton of Arkansas, should he challenge two-term Sen. Mark Pryor next year).

To the extent Cheney has a platform to discuss national security, she would make a significant contribution to the debate taking place on the right. It isn’t clear that the Wyoming race will turn on national security, but even forcing Enzi to articulate a robust view of America’s role in the world would be a positive development.

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