Democrats look to make Marjorie Taylor Greene the face of GOP
Democrats seizing on a string of controversies surrounding Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) hope to make her the face of the GOP in the 2022 midterms.
The president’s party typically loses seats in the first midterm, and Republicans are hoping to win back the House after gaining seats in 2020.
Yet Democrats think the controversies surrounding Greene and a few other Republicans, from fellow first-term Rep. Lauren Boebert (Colo.) to Arizona firebrand Reps. Andy Biggs (Ariz.) and Paul Gosar (Ariz.), could make the GOP toxic with the suburban voters who increasingly have turned away from Republicans in the Trump era.
Greene has stood out with social media posts and interviews promoting the QAnon conspiracy theory, questioning whether the Sandy Hook and Las Vegas mass shootings were false flag operations and promoting violence against Democratic public officials.
The fury surrounding her was enough to lift the backbencher to being parodied in the “Saturday Night Love” cold-open skit over the weekend.
Democrats believe the controversial remarks by Greene and other GOP lawmakers will be toxic to Republican efforts to win back moderates, swing voters, women and suburbanites heading into 2022.
“These people are completely unmoored and really have become the face of the Republican Party,” said Mark Longabaugh, a veteran Democratic operative. “You’ll see them in ads with other Republican candidates standing together, and they’ll take everything she and other Republicans have voted on or said and put that in ads. It will be a problem for Republicans.”
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) released a statement over the weekend slamming House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) as the leader of the QAnon party for giving Greene seats on the House Education and Budget Committees.
The House Democratic campaign arm has been hounding Republicans for their support of Greene and drawing attention to those who donated to her or took campaign cash from Biggs, Gosar and others.
House Democrats are looking to force a vote on Greene’s expulsion, which would force Republicans to take a position on her.
Greene in an interview with OAN on Monday acknowledged the Parkland, Fla., shooting in 2018 was real, but in a statement to The Hill cast herself as a victim of left-wing and media smears.
“Democrats and their spokesmen in the Fake News Media will stop at nothing to defeat conservative Republicans,” she said. “They want to take me out because I represent the people. And they absolutely hate it.”
Former President Trump, still the de facto leader of the GOP, has been adding fuel to the fire, calling Greene last week to encourage her and setting up a meeting with her later this week.
“Marjorie Taylor Greene shows that the Republican Party is still Trump’s party and that’s a party that has lost races across the country and will continue to lose,” said David Bergstein, the director of battleground states communications at the Democratic National Committee.
McCarthy is also scheduled to meet with Greene this week as calls grow for him to strip her of her committee assignments.
Republican leaders know they have a problem.
In a string of media interviews over the weekend, Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel called out Greene directly.
“The comments that are being put forward by Marjorie Taylor Green are atrocious,” she told The New York Times. “They need to be condemned. They are violent, they are inaccurate — they are very, very dangerous.”
McDaniel, a staunch Trump ally, also called the QAnon theory “beyond fringe” and “dangerous.”
Trump never condemned QAnon, part of his long-running refusal to condemn his extremist supporters.
Democrats are running with it, noting that many of the most controversial Republicans hail from purple states where Democrats have made recent gains, such as Georgia, Arizona and Colorado.
“It’s really problematic for McConnell that so many of these Republicans are in some of these major 2022 Senate battlegrounds,” said one Democrat who works on Senate campaigns. “Even if they are not candidates themselves, they are toxic figures who are defining the Republican brand for moderate and independent voters in these states that just flipped to Dems and they are becoming so controversial that the association damage could spill into other battleground states.”
Some Republicans are skeptical of the Democratic efforts, arguing that Greene doesn’t have nearly the influence within GOP politics as the progressive “Squad” members have in the Democratic Party.
They say efforts to tie all Republicans to Greene at a national level will energize the liberal base, but won’t have nearly the impact on swing voters.
“To be clear, Taylor Greene believes some really dumb shit,” said Seth Weathers, who ran Trump’s 2016 campaign in Georgia. “But I think it will only hurt us as much as it has hurt Democrats that Ilhan Omar and AOC are the face of the Democrats. How much that hurt is, who knows. But I’m not that interested in their side taking issue with our people, when they’ve been silent on their own conspiracy theorists around Russia.”
Reps. Omar (D-Minn.) and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) are leading progressive lawmakers who have been lightning rods on conservative political and social media.
But other Republicans worry about what lawmakers like Greene in Georgia and Biggs in Arizona will mean in the long term as the GOP seeks to win back traditionally red states. Democrats carried both Georgia and Arizona in the 2020 presidential election and hold both Senate seats in both states after years of GOP dominance.
“Taylor Greene is kind of a pale imitation of the Trump problem Republicans have with suburban voters,” said Keith Naughton, a veteran Republican strategist. “If she was in Kansas, it wouldn’t be as much of an issue. But what’s going on now in Arizona and Georgia is a bigger issue. These problems are in the wrong areas.”
Some Republicans say the only answer is for the national party to completely withdraw its support of Greene and others like her.
“In 2019, House Republican leadership stripped Steve King of his committee assignments, and that lack of institutional support ultimately cost him his seat as he lost in the primary in 2020,” said Jon McHenry, a Republican pollster.
King was an Iowa House Republican whose racist remarks offended people in both parties for years. He lost a primary challenge in 2020.
“The longer a party tolerates the lunatic fringe, the more ingrained that image shapes the image of the party,” McHenry said.