GOP Rep. Liz Cheney returned to the campaign trail in Michigan Tuesday night, receiving a standing ovation more than 1,600 miles from her Wyoming home — and a world away from the Republican politics that has been her family’s lifeblood.
“If we want to ensure the survival of the republic, we have to walk away from politics as usual,” Cheney said. “We have to stand up — every one of us — and say we’re going to do what’s right for this country. We’re going to look beyond partisan politics.”
A week after Cheney offered a surprise endorsement of Rep. Elissa Slotkin, a Michigan Democrat whom she praised as “a good and honorable public servant,” Cheney traveled here to deliver the message in person.
She said a peaceful transition of power was essential to a functioning democracy and should be demanded by Republicans and Democrats alike.
“The chips are down for us. This is our time of testing,” Cheney said. “Not a single one of us in this room and not a single one of us across this country can be a bystander. We all must stand and defend this republic.”
Slotkin, who was first elected in 2018, is the only Democrat serving in the House who represents a Congressional district won by Mitt Romney in 2012 and Trump in 2016 and 2020. She implored independents and Republicans to join her campaign, hoping that Cheney’s visit would offer a last-minute burst of support in a highly-competitive race.
“Welcome to Michigan!” Slotkin said, bluntly acknowledging that she would never have imagined herself sharing a stage with Cheney two years ago.
It was an assessment that Cheney shared, saying: “This is, by the way, the first time I have ever campaigned for a Democrat.”
Cheney and Slotkin serve together on the House Armed Services Committee, sitting on different sides of the political aisle and holding starkly different views on many aspects of domestic and foreign policy. They said they came together through their shared views of what they believe are urgent threats to democracy.
“The truth is that Liz and I differ on lots of substantive policy issues,” Slotkin said. “But there’s one really, really big thing that we agree on. That is preserving American democracy, the thing that all of us here and the two of us desperately, desperately love.”
The rally, which was billed as “an evening for patriotism and bipartisanship,” drew a crowd of about 600 people to the East Lansing High School gymnasium. It was unlike anything Cheney held during her own race in Wyoming earlier this year.
Her campaign stops were largely limited to living rooms and other private events, as she faced myriad security threats and the wrath of Republicans furious at her role on the committee investigating the Capitol attack on Jan. 6, 202, and on her vote to impeach Donald Trump.
Slotkin, a former CIA officer and Pentagon official during the Bush and Obama administrations, is locked in a competitive contest with GOP state Sen. Tom Barrett in Michigan’s 7th Congressional District, which is anchored in Lansing and nearby counties.
Michigan Republicans were also taking careful note of Cheney’s visit.
“This is going to fire up Republicans, certainly, it’s going to fire up independents,” Barrett told CNN in an interview Tuesday. “It’s going to fire up people who don’t want to see a permanent war machine continue to perpetuate in Washington DC.”
Barrett, an Army veteran who served in Iraq, delivered a blistering critique of both Cheney and Slotkin. This week, he announced the endorsement of Harriet Hageman, who defeated Cheney in the Wyoming primary and is on her way to filling her seat.
“People are sick and tired of these establishment forces hanging together, no matter what,” Barrett said during a campaign stop. “The phony idea that Elissa Slotkin and Liz Cheney are now part of some non-partisan coalition together, the only thing they brought us is the misery we’re all feeling right now.”
Slotkin dismissed the suggestion that Cheney’s visit could backfire. She said she was proud to invite her to Michigan and said it was incumbent on people in both parties to help protect the country’s fragile democracy.
“When I look at the loudest voices, particularly on the other side of the aisle, including my opponent, it is not about policy. It is about denying the results of the 2020 election, drumming up fear and exclusion of other groups,” Slotkin said. “It feels to me that at the most senior levels, the soul has left the body. But here’s the thing, when republicans are out of whack, so are Democrats.”