Liz Cheney stood me up once, but I don’t let that affect my opinion about her. That was long before she was a congresswoman, or even before she ran a Middle East-focused shop in the State Department.

It wasn’t a date; she was supposed to come to Maine to campaign for her father, but caught a cold from her kid. So I’m not even being particularly generous when I say kicking her out of a GOP leadership role would be a mistake. But it will probably happen anyway.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy faces a tough choice after calls, including from Donald Trump, to remove Dick Cheney’s daughter from the No. 3 spot among the House Republicans, conference chairwoman. He could accede to the dominant, vocal pro-Trump majority in the minority party that Republicans have become or he could listen to his own conscience, and common sense.

McCarthy knows jettisoning Liz Cheney is not only wrong, but it is likely to haunt him later. He himself is not a dyed-in-the-wool Trumper, so his own position is precarious. If Jim Jordan wasn't so unfit for holding a caucus together, McCarthy would have been gone years ago.

The alternative to Cheney allows the House minority leader some wiggle room. Unlike Cheney, Elise Stefanik has been vocally supportive of Trump, and being elected to Congress first in 2014, she is, in fact, Generation Trump. I’ve been watching Stefanik since her first campaign and she is savvy and detail-oriented.

While I initially pegged her as a Will Hurd-type, i.e., a foreign policy hawk who is moderate on other issues, I was wrong and she surprised me by the speed and intensity with which she swung to Trump. Stefanik knows how to play the game, and has a more media-friendly face than Marjorie Taylor-Green.

All the forces seem to be blowing in Stefanik’s favor, but one. What thinking person wants to piss off Dick Cheney?

Chances are McCarthy never liked Matt Gaetz much. After all, the showboating junior congressman from Florida was seizing the limelight whenever he could. McCarthy certainly doesn’t want to end up like Gaetz.

In late January, Gaetz took it upon himself to travel to Wyoming to campaign against Liz Cheney and whip up support for a primary challenger. Two months later, the life of the cartoonish congressman imploded irrecoverably. Of course it’s probably a coincidence….

Some of us are old enough to remember that when Dick Cheney shot his friend, presumably by accident, the friend apologized for having gotten in the way.

But if Liz is smart, as she is frequently said to be, unshackling herself from a caucus with more ties to the past than the present, or certainly the future, may be a good move. All good insurgencies need a leader. Some Republicans are talking about a DeSantis-Hawley ticket. That would have the same effect on the centrifugal forces in this country as what McKinsey told oxycontin maker PurduePharma to do: radically accelerate, or “super-charge” it.

Republicans would be well-served to have a woman at the top of the ticket in 2024, and that may or may not be Cheney’s game. If it is, getting booted out of leadership may not be the best look, unless of course her next move is extraordinary.

Of course all of this makes great theater for Democrats, especially when you throw in the booing and catcalling Utah Sen. Mitt Romney got from Republicans in his (adopted) state last week. Where there’s Republican rancor, call in the Lincoln Project to sloppily toss gasoline on the fire. With a wary eye on that disgraced outfit, Cheney, Romney and other Republicans need to carefully consider to whom they’re playing. If it’s just to the mainstream media and Democrats, it will be a short song.

Next year’s midterm will tell us how much juice the Trump train still has. Speaker Pelosi came within mere seats of losing her majority last November; if Republicans don’t take the House in 2022, the knives will be out and the current leadership will be overthrown. As liberals reach for their popcorn, conservatives have reason to fret.

A party that throws Liz Cheney under the bus will have quite a few of us moving toward the exit.

Sam Patten is a recovering political consultant who was raised in Knox County and worked for Maine’s last three Republican senators.