The New York Times reported this weekend that Fox News contributor Liz Cheney's potential run for the U.S. Senate in Wyoming "threatens to start a civil war within the state's Republican establishment." According to the Times, because the seat is currently held by the reliably conservative Michael Enzi, any primary challenge by Cheney could cause serious conflict within the state's GOP.
A run by Cheney -- who is merely the latest in a long line of Fox News figures to use a job at the network to help position for a possible run for office -- could also set up an interesting fight within Fox itself, pitting the contributor and her allies against former Bush administration colleague Karl Rove.
Rove is helping lead the Conservative Victory Project, which the Times reported in February will seek to "recruit seasoned candidates and protect Senate incumbents from challenges by far-right conservatives and Tea Party enthusiasts." That definition appears to fit Enzi, an incumbent that, per the The National Journal, "has been a reliable stalwart for the political right--his lifetime rating from the American Conservative Union through 2010 was above 93%, one of the highest among senators." In a December 2010 appearance on The O'Reilly Factor, Rove praised Enzi as "a very sensible Republican" and highlighted his past efforts to reach across the aisle.
Any move by Rove's group to oppose Cheney's run is likely to lead to withering criticism from their Fox colleagues. Fox contributors Katie Pavlich, Jebediah Bila, and Richard Grenell have all voiced their support for a Cheney run, with Grenell asking, "where do I send my Liz Cheney for Senate Check?"
Other Fox figures heavily criticized the Rove group when news of its existence first surfaced. Fox host Mike Huckabee accused Rove's "absolutely repulsive" group of engaging in "fratricide"; frequent Fox guest and popular radio host Mark Levin labeled Rove a "propagandist"; Fox contributor Erick Erickson suggested that any candidate supported by Rove's group "should be targeted for destruction."
Liz Cheney joined the chorus during an interview on Fox host Andrea Tantaros' radio program. Cheney, who explained that she considers Rove a good friend and admires him, nonetheless said that she has "some problems and I haven't talked to Karl directly, but just based on the news reports, I don't like the idea that we're going to have an outside group coming in and determining who ought to be the candidate in a primary."
Fox News' Fox Nation website highlighted the exchange at the time under the headline, "Liz Cheney Takes on Karl Rove."
Regardless of any possible conflict with Rove, if recent history is any indication, Fox will be happy to let Cheney use her role at the network as a launching pad into political office.
FoxNews.com pointed to the New York Times article and its citation of Cheney "barnstorm[ing]" Wyoming as evidence that "signs...are mounting" that Cheney is planning a Senate run. Fox Nation has posted at least two articles promoting Cheney's political ambitions in recent months.
Cheney's Senate run has also come up during her on-air appearances. In May 2012, Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace asked Cheney if she is "considering running for the Senate from Wyoming." In response, Cheney praised the state, mentioned how she was "honored to have been asked to help the Republican Party" there, but evaded the question. Wallace told viewers, "let me tell you folks, to be continued."
In recent weeks, Cheney has found ways to shoehorn what sounds a lot like stump speech material into her Fox appearances. During a June appearance on Hannity, after being asked about President Obama's energy speech, Cheney declared that the president was "using phony science to kill real jobs." She continued, "You know, I'm from Wyoming, and people there are starting to say, this isn't just a war on coal, it's not just a war on fossil fuels, it's a war in Wyoming and all the other energy producing states in this country."