Wyoming representative Liz Cheney, Donald Trump’s most steadfast Republican adversary in Congress, was defeated in a party primary on Tuesday.
Ms Cheney fell to a rival backed by the former president in a contest that reinforced his grip on the party’s base.
The third-term congresswoman and her allies entered the day downbeat about her prospects, aware that Mr Trump’s backing gave Harriet Hageman considerable lift in the state where he won by the largest margin during the 2020 campaign.
Ms Cheney was already looking ahead to a political future beyond Capitol Hill that could include a 2024 presidential run, potentially putting her on another collision course with Mr Trump.
Still, the results were a powerful reminder of the GOP’s rapid shift to the right.
A party once dominated by national security-oriented, business-friendly conservatives like Ms Cheney’s father, former vice president Dick Cheney, now belongs to Mr Trump, animated by his populist appeal and, above all, his denial of defeat in the 2020 election.
Those have been roundly rejected by federal and state election officials along with Mr Trump’s own attorney general and judges he appointed.
They transformed Ms Cheney from an occasional critic of the former president to the clearest voice inside the party warning that he represents a threat to democratic norms.
“We’re facing a moment where our democracy really is under attack and under threat,” Ms Cheney told CBS News earlier on Tuesday.
“And those of us across the board — Republicans, Democrats and independents who believe deeply in freedom and who care about the Constitution and the future of the country — have an obligation to put that above party.”
The 56-year-old Republican delivered a similar message in her concession speech later in the night, emphasising her plans to maintain an active presence in national politics.
She described Tuesday’s outcome as “the first step in a much larger fight” and said “our work is far from over”.
Ms Cheney’s defeat would have been unthinkable just two years ago. The daughter of a former vice president, she hails from one of the most prominent political families in Wyoming.
In Washington, she was the No 3 House Republican, an influential voice in GOP politics and policy with a sterling conservative voting record.
But after the January 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol by Trump supporters, Ms Cheney voted to impeach Mr Trump and made it her primary mission to ensure he never again serves in the Oval Office.
She pushed past GOP censures and death threats to serve as a leader on the congressional panel investigating Mr Trump’s role in the insurrection.
Ms Cheney will now be forced from Congress at the end of her third and final term in January. She is not expected to leave Capitol Hill quietly.
She will continue in her leadership role on the congressional panel investigating the January 6 attack until it dissolves at the end of the year. And she is actively considering a 2024 White House bid – as a Republican or independent – having vowed to do everything in her power to fight Mr Trump’s influence in her party.
So far, it is a one-sided fight.
Tuesday’s primary contests in Wyoming and, to a lesser extent, Alaska demonstrated the enduring strength of Mr Trump and his brand of hard-line politics ahead of the November midterm elections.
So far, the former president has helped install loyalists who parrot his conspiracy theories in general election matchups from Pennsylvania to Arizona.
Echoing Mr Trump, Ms Hageman, a ranching industry lawyer, falsely claimed the 2020 election was “rigged”.