Republicans worry Greene could be drag on party in suburbs

Republicans are increasingly concerned that the controversy over Rep. Marjorie Taylor Green (R-Ga.) could define the party and its candidates in the 2022 midterms, throwing a wrench in GOP efforts to recapture the support of suburban voters.

Democrats have already jumped on the outrage surrounding Greene. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee on Tuesday launched a six-figure ad campaign tying Republicans to the QAnon conspiracy theory, which Greene has voiced support for in the past, while Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - White House, Dems play blame game over evictions Overnight Health Care: Average daily COVID infections topped last summer's peak, CDC says | US reaches 70 percent vaccination goal a month after Biden's target | White House says CDC can't renew eviction ban Biden, Pelosi struggle with end of eviction ban MORE (D-Calif.) referred to Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin McCarthy58 percent say Jan. 6 House committee is biased: poll The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Senate finalizes .2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill Sunday shows - Delta variant, infrastructure dominate MORE (R-Calif.) as “Q-CA” in a press release on Wednesday.

On Thursday, the Democratic group House Majority Forward released an ad accusing McCarthy of warmly embracing “the QAnon Caucus,” after the California Republican signaled he wouldn’t move to punish Greene over her past comments.

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“I don’t think someone is going to vote against Brian KempBrian KempNew spotlight on secretaries of state as electoral battlegrounds Georgia Gov. Kemp says FDA needs to upgrade its authorization for vaccines The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - A huge win for Biden, centrist senators MORE because of what this woman said in the past, but will it be used to try and paint a picture that is negative? Yeah,” said Chuck Clay, a former Georgia Republican Party chairman.

The early strategy shows Democrats are looking to get a head start on what will likely be a tight midterm election. The party holds narrow majorities in the House and the Senate. And the party in control of the White House historically has lost seats going into the administration’s first midterm election.

Both parties see the suburbs in particular as crucial in their efforts to win. Republicans struggled to curry favor with voters in suburban enclaves across the country thanks to former President TrumpDonald TrumpThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - White House, Dems play blame game over evictions The Memo: Left pins hopes on Nina Turner in Ohio after recent defeats Biden administration to keep Trump-era rule of turning away migrants during pandemic MORE’s low favorability ratings in those areas.

Now, as Democrats look to make Greene the face of her party, she has aligned herself even more closely with Trump. At a press conference on Friday, she argued the party “belongs to him,” something that is likely to fuel concerns among some Republicans about the party’s chances in the suburbs heading into 2022.

“She’s part of the Republican conference, a famous part now. That can’t be good for the Republicans,” said Bill Kristol, a conservative critic of President Trump and director of Defending Democracy Together.

Others say the controversy surrounding Greene amounts to an annoyance for the party, which is working to navigate Washington in its new minority status.

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“It’s a distraction. It’s something that you don’t necessarily want to deal with,” said Georgia-based Republican strategist Jay Williams.

Greene has voiced her support for the far-right QAnon conspiracy theory and has suggested that a number of school shootings and the 9/11 terror attacks were staged. Video surfaced late last month of Greene following and heckling Parkland survivor and activist David Hogg on Capitol Hill after the school shooting.

On top of that, CNN uncovered a number of Facebook posts last month that appeared to show Greene expressed support for violence against Democrats before running for Congress. Greene called the network’s reporting a “hit piece.”

Despite the intense backlash against Greene from Democrats and some Republicans, McCarthy declined to take away Greene’s committee assignments during a closed-door Republican conference meeting Wednesday.

The House voted 230-199 on Thursday to strip Greene of her committee assignments, with 11 Republicans joining Democratic ranks to take action against the first-term congresswoman.

Despite the small showing of bipartisanship, most Republicans, including GOP Caucus Chairwoman Liz CheneyElizabeth (Liz) Lynn Cheney58 percent say Jan. 6 House committee is biased: poll Gosar's siblings pen op-ed urging for his resignation: 'You are immune to shame' Kinzinger supports Jan. 6 panel subpoenas for Republicans, including McCarthy MORE (Wy.), voted against the measure but condemned Greene's past comments. 

Democrats were quick to hit Republicans after the vote, with Pelosi’s office releasing a statement with the headline “GOP Rapidly Morphing Into GQP With Strong Support for Greene.”

The controversy appears to have cost Greene in national favorability ratings. A FiveThirtyEight poll released on Friday showed Greene with a 15 percent favorable rating and 37 percent unfavorable rating.

But Greene is viewed differently in the staunchly conservative 14th Congressional District she represents in Georgia. She placed first in the Republican primary in June and went on to defeat a Republican neurosurgeon in the runoff by 14 points.

Republicans say the backlash against Greene may not ultimately damage the party’s chances of winning back the House next year, which would only build upon the gains the made in 2020.

“That’s not how they look at it,” Kristol said. “They won seats in 2020. They don’t think they’re in horrible shape.” 

But others argue that Republicans lost key voting groups at the Senate level in states like Georgia as a result of conspiracy theories over the presidential election results.

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“It was loony conspiracy theories that cost us the Georgia runoffs, and Greene isn’t helping with that,” said a Republican strategist who works on Senate races. “Look, it’s not a death knell for Republicans. People aren’t going to base their vote entirely around one freshman. But candidates are going to get asked about it and that’s not helpful.”

Republicans say Greene lacks the power and influence to make an impact on Congress, adding that she likely will not be a top issue for candidates in 2022 given the nature of the ever-changing news cycle.

“They’re trying to make it sound like she’s Kevin McCarthy. It’s not the same thing,” Williams said. “She’s not the Speaker or minority leader. She’s this freshman member.

“Two years ago we didn’t even have coronavirus, man. It’s going to be a totally different world [by the time the midterms come around],” he added.