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Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney Vows To Change Republicans' Messaging


Here in Washington, as House Republicans get ready for life in the minority, the party is making some changes to its leadership. One new GOP leader is a fresh face but a very familiar name. NPR congressional correspondent Scott Detrow has more on Republican Conference Chair Liz Cheney.


KEVIN MCCARTHY: Now I want to introduce our newest member of our leadership team, our conference chair, Liz Cheney.

LIZ CHENEY: Thank you very much. It's...

SCOTT DETROW, BYLINE: Conference chair is the No. 3 spot in GOP leadership behind Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Minority Whip Steve Scalise. Liz Cheney ran for the post promising to change Republicans messaging. In her first statement after winning the job, Cheney said the House GOP has a lot to tout.


CHENEY: And we know that the policies that we put in place in the last Congress are the ones that have created the kind of economic growth, the kinds of national security that we need in this nation.

DETROW: And yet Republicans just lost more seats than they have in any election since the wake of Watergate. So Cheney has her work cut out for her. Florida Republican Brian Mast says he's confident Cheney is up to the task.

BRIAN MAST: Liz will do an outstanding job in this. I think she probably has a future to be the speaker of the House someday.

DETROW: She's only wrapping up her first term, but Liz Cheney has been around politics for a long time. She's the daughter of Dick Cheney, who held the same at-large Wyoming House seat and the same post in Republican leadership before he went on to serve as vice president. Liz Cheney worked in the Bush State Department but became better known as a fiery commentator on cable news. Here she is on Fox News in 2014 blasting President Obama for saying the CIA had employed torture when questioning suspected terrorists in the wake of 9/11.


CHENEY: He's lying about what they did. He's slandering them. He went to Cairo and did it in 2009. Today he did it from the podium of the Oval Office. It's a disgrace. It's despicable.

DETROW: After a short-lived run for Senate, Cheney ran for Wyoming's open House seat in 2016. Now she's the highest-ranking woman in a caucus that's getting more male and white as Democrats' diversity grows. Colorado Republican Mike Coffman says the political gender gap is a big reason why he lost his seat last week.


MIKE COFFMAN: It was very difficult to try and make a case, particularly to suburban college-educated women that were so upset with the president.

DETROW: Cheney's focused on turning that around.

CHENEY: As a woman, I find it pretty paternalistic, frankly, when people say, well, you're going to vote this way because you're a woman, or you're going to vote for this candidate because she's a woman. That's now how this works. You know, what we need to be doing is laying out the extent to which women care about national security. Women care about economic growth. They care about jobs.

DETROW: She says Republicans can do better.

CHENEY: We need to get on offense. And I think especially because we're in the minority now, we've got to be in a position where we're making sure that we're out there every day fighting.

DETROW: This morning, Cheney was on Fox News doing just that.


CHENEY: And I'm sure that Minority Leader Pelosi likes the new energy that's coming in. The problem is most of that energy happens to be socialist.

DETROW: But Coffman is skeptical that any Republican message strategy will work given the Republican in the White House.


COFFMAN: I think it's going to be very hard. Donald Trump's about Donald Trump. And what Donald Trump does is he wants to be the center of attention every single day. He wants to dominate the news cycle every single day. And good luck with trying to get out of a message other than that.

DETROW: Cheney's going to try. And she's going into the job with some motivational words of wisdom from her father, who was on Capitol Hill to support her during the leadership vote.

CHENEY: He told me not to screw it up.


DETROW: Scott Detrow, NPR News, the Capitol.


Scott Detrow is a White House correspondent for NPR and co-hosts the NPR Politics Podcast.