Liz Cheney's rookie mistake and rough couple of weeks

Liz Cheney made one of the most common rookie mistakes recently. She announced she was running for the U.S. Senate against popular three-term Senator Mike Enzi and didn’t make sure she had all of her Wyoming taxes paid up first.

U.S. Senate candidate Liz Cheney and her husband were more than two months late paying property taxes on a $1.6 million home they bought last year in the tony northwest Wyoming town of Wilson, according to Teton County records.

The oversight arose when they misunderstood the terms of their purchase of the four-bedroom, four-bath log home with views of the Teton Range, Cheney said Wednesday.

“As soon as we learned the tax hadn’t been paid for the first half of the year, we paid the tax,” she said.

Cheney said that instead of the seller paying the taxes for the first half of 2012 at closing, as she and her husband thought had happened, money for those taxes was deducted from the amount they paid at closing.

Okay, fair enough. People make mistakes, and when Liz and Phil found out they hadn’t paid all of their property taxes, they quickly paid them. Good. No harm, no foul. Right?

Well, not quite.

When the Associated Press reporter (yes, you should be on guard right now for bias) asked Liz how this could have happened, Liz made the terrible mistake of answering the question.

Cheney said the property tax notifications were mailed to her other home in McLean, Va., and that’s why she wasn’t aware of the situation sooner.

Oh boy. The problem for Liz is she is fighting a perception among a majority of the electorate that she is actually not a Wyomingite and that she should have run for the U.S. Senate in Virginia, where people believe she is actually from and lives when the summer concludes in Wyoming. (I apologize for linking to a PPP poll, but the polling so far on this race is limited and also rather consistent.)

What is the effect of this story on Liz’s chances of unseating Mike Enzi? Well, by itself, it doesn’t help at all. It probably just solidifies the opinions of people who believe she shouldn’t be in this race in the first place. I doubt it is a net loss of support, or generates any real opposition to her.

However, Liz’s job right now during these easy months is to raise money (in which I am sure she is doing fine) and to improve her image closer to that of Mike Enzi’s. Stories like this, and the stories on the polling right after she announced, do not advance the ball at all. As a matter of fact, if I had to guess, I would bet that the media coverage Liz has received in Wyoming to date has lessened her probability of winning. I wouldn’t say substantially, but I wouldn’t say slightly either.

The bottom line is Liz Cheney has had a rough couple of weeks in Wyoming since her announcement and she needs to turn it around soon. Otherwis she risks getting painted with the perception that she’s just not going to win. In politics, perception is reality.

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