Liz Cheney, a leading Republican critic and antagonist of Donald Trump, has said she is considering mounting her own third-party candidacy for the White House, as part of her effort to thwart the former president from returning to the Oval Office.
In her most explicit public statements to date on a potential presidential run, Cheney told the Washington Post on Tuesday she would do “whatever it takes” to block a Trump return.
Cheney, the daughter of former Republican vice-president Dick Cheney, has previously floated the idea. But she had never explicitly stated if she was thinking of running as a semi-moderate Republican party candidate or would run as an independent.
“Several years ago, I would not have contemplated a third-party run,” Cheney said in the interview. “I happen to think democracy is at risk at home, obviously, as a result of Donald Trump’s continued grip on the Republican party, and I think democracy is at risk internationally as well.”
Cheney echoed that sentiment in remarks with USA Today. She said: “I certainly hope to play a role in helping to ensure that the country has … a new, fully conservative party. And so whether that means restoring the current Republican party, which looks like a very difficult if not impossible task, or setting up a new party, I do hope to be involved and engaged in that.”
Cheney added that she would make decision in the next few months, describing the threats facing the US as “existential”. She the country needed a candidate to “confront all of those challenges”, adding: “That will all be part of my calculation as we go into the early months of 2024.”
The former Wyoming congresswoman was speaking as part of a book tour promoting Oath and Honor: A Memoir and a Warning, which calls on the US to back pro-constitution candidates against what she describes as Trump enablers in Congress.
“Every one of us – Republican, Democrat, independent – must work and vote together to ensure that Donald Trump and those who have appeased, enabled, and collaborated with him are defeated,” she wrote, calling it “the cause of our time”.
With Trump 40 points ahead of 2024 Republican presidential primary challengers, she told the Post, the “tectonic plates of our politics are shifting”, upending conventional wisdom about third party candidates.
The primary system process that produces a single Republican and Democrat presidential nominee, Cheney added, is “pretty irrelevant, in my view, in the 2024 cycle, because the threat is so unique”.
If Cheney decides on a third-party run, she will join Robert F Kennedy Jr, Cornel West and Jill Stein. Other potential candidates include West Virginia’s soon-to-retire senator Joe Manchin, the former Connecticut senator Joe Lieberman, and ex-Maryland governor Larry Hogan.
In a Harvard CAPS-Harris survey in November, Kennedy led the declared pack in terms of favorability at 52%. Kennedy scored higher than the runner-up Trump, at 51%, and Joe Biden, at 46%.
“Robert Kennedy has positioned himself to appeal to members of both parties, though it is unclear how much of his ratings are from in depth knowledge of Kennedy versus his popular family name,” Mark Penn, co-director of the Harvard Caps-Harris Poll, told the Hill.
Against a backdrop of warnings that third-party candidates may only succeed in helping Trump win a second term in the White House, and others that it would do the opposite, polling suggests that a year out from the election voters are open to alternatives to the two-party lock-up.
According to a Gallup poll in October, 63% of US adults currently agree with the statement that the Republican and Democratic parties do “such a poor job” of representing the American people that “a third major party is needed”.
According to Pew Research in September, Americans’ views of politics and elected officials are unrelentingly negative. Elected officials are widely viewed as self-serving, ineffective and locked in partisan warfare. And a majority said the political process is dominated by special interests as well as campaign cash.
On Monday, efforts to oppose No Labels and other third-party presidential bids ramped up with a $100,000 political advertising campaign funded by Citizens to Save Our Republic, a bipartisan group that has warned that any effort to upset democratic norms will play into Trump’s hand.
“We are worried about any third party. We realize it is a free country. Anybody can run for president who wants to run for president,” former US House minority leader Richard Gephardt told reporters on Monday. “But we have a right to tell citizens the danger they will face if they vote for any of these third-party candidates.”
• This article was amended on 5 December 2023 after we incorrectly included Marianne Williamson as a third-party presidential candidate. She is running for the Democratic candidacy.