Support from Mr. McCarthy, in particular, had helped save Ms. Cheney from a similar challenge in February after her vote to impeach Mr. Trump. But the top leader, like rank-and-file Republicans, had grown increasingly frustrated in recent weeks as Ms. Cheney continued to call out Mr. Trump in media interviews and took shots at her own party for tolerating his falsehoods, including during a party retreat in Orlando last week.
By Wednesday, as it became clear that Mr. McCarthy had turned on her, Ms. Cheney was hitting back at him personally, noting that while the leader had initially condemned Mr. Trump for failing to call off his supporters during the Jan. 6 riot, “he has since changed his story.”
Mr. Trump, who had been furious at Mr. McCarthy and others for backing Ms. Cheney earlier this year, sought to drive a nail in her political coffin on Wednesday. In a statement, he derided her as a “warmongering fool” and endorsed Ms. Stefanik, whom he called “a far superior choice.”
“We want leaders who believe in the Make America Great Again movement, and prioritize the values of America First,” he wrote. “Elise is a tough and smart communicator!”
Ms. Stefanik, a fourth-term congresswoman representing New York’s Adirondack region, had initially been wary of appearing as if she was pushing Ms. Cheney out for personal gain. But mere minutes after receiving Mr. Trump’s support, she abandoned any hint of reticence and took her campaign to replace Ms. Cheney public. “We are unified and focused on FIRING PELOSI & WINNING in 2022!” she wrote on Twitter.
Seeing votes stacking up against Ms. Cheney, her supporters said she would not fight the drive to dethrone her; unlike in February, she has not tried to rally her allies on or off Capitol Hill. But they said she also did not intend to go quietly.
Representative Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, perhaps Ms. Cheney’s most outspoken supporter, demanded on Twitter that every lawmaker “go on the record as to how they will vote on @RepLizCheney in operation #coverupJan6 and concerned donors should take notes.”