Mr. Kinzinger is retiring after hostility from Republican colleagues and death threats from voters. On Oct. 22, he was at the Salt Lake City Public Library to endorse Mr. McMullin, a former C.I.A. officer, in his bid to oust Mr. Lee, who cheered on Mr. Trump’s efforts to remain in office after the 2020 election. Mr. Lee privately offered in a text to the White House chief of staff, Mark Meadows, “a group of ready and loyal advocates who will go to bat for him.”
Declaring that “democracy is on the line,” Mr. Kinzinger told Utah voters last month, “This is the best opportunity I see in the country, and I mean that, to send a message, to build something new, to send somebody that can change the status quo.”
His Country First political organization has endorsed a bipartisan slate of “defenders of democracy,” which includes Josh Shapiro and Katie Hobbs, the Democrats running for governor of Pennsylvania and Arizona, and the Democratic candidates for secretary of state in Arizona, Nevada, Michigan and Minnesota. But the political action committee has spent virtually no money. Nor, for that matter, has Ms. Cheney’s PAC, the Great Task, beyond the ad in Arizona and the money it spent on her failed effort to stave off a Republican primary defeat this summer.
A number of other groups still nominally connected to the Republican Party, like the Lincoln Project, are rejecting the party they have become estranged from on social media and in television commercials intended to peel away disenchanted Republicans and independents. The Republican Accountability Project has been collecting testimonials from disaffected Republican voters, which are turned into billboards and advertisements.
“Whether we as a country will be able to defend our system of self-government in the coming years, even in the next two cycles, will depend on whether we can bring together Republicans, Democrats and independents who are still committed to American democracy, to the Constitution and to the reality of objective truth,” Mr. McMullin said in an interview on Monday. “Are the votes there? Yes, they are there. Can we bring them together? That is the challenge.”
To that end, the power that Ms. Cheney and Mr. Kinzinger bring is their personal stories of defiance and excommunication. Ms. Cheney has been stingy with her endorsements, choosing the races she sees as the biggest threats to democracy and Democratic candidates she can personally vouch for. But for candidates like Ms. Slotkin, that makes events like Tuesday’s that much more valuable.
“For vulnerable Democrats in really tight races, a lot of those voters are college-educated swing voters who value the independence of candidates, and there’s extra validation from a Liz Cheney or Adam Kinzinger saying, ‘Hey, this Republican opponent is beyond the pale,’” said Sarah Longwell, a Republican pollster who helped found the Republican Accountability Project.