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OK, It’s Small, but There’s a Chance Marjorie Taylor Greene Could Lose

Georgia Republicans redrew her district to make it more Democratic, and she faces a primary challenge that could be serious. It’s not impossible.

Sean Rayford/Getty Images
Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene

There are few elected officials who provoke more fury among Democrats than Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene. Privately, some Republicans—even in her home state of Georgia—feel the same way. But the prospect of ousting her from Congress may seem like nothing short of the longest long shot. Yet it’s still possible.

A few of the elements that would need to exist for Greene to be ousted are in place: She’s been stripped of her committee assignments, she’s fostered a persistent opposition among Democrats and even some Republican politicos (along with a hard-core following on the far right), her district has become slightly more Democratic in this year’s redistricting, and in the past few days, she was permanently banned from Twitter after violating the platform’s rules about tweeting misinformation.

The midterms are shaping up to be a wave election for Republicans, and even with a different constituency to represent, the first-term congresswoman is the heavy favorite to win reelection. But that kind of notoriety and the lack of committee assignments have been the precursor to the end of other House members—just look at former Congressman Steve King’s defeat in 2020. King inhabited a similar role to the one that Greene has been carving out for herself as the Republican member of Congress eager to make racist arguments or indulge in dangerous conspiracy theories. Like King in his last race, Greene has a primary challenger, Jennifer Strahan.

There has been chatter over the past few months about Strahan’s candidacy and the slightly conceivable scenario in which she defeats Greene. Georgia Republican strategists are loath to do more than game out the lightning-in-a-bottle scenario in which Greene loses. Yet they say there is a path.

They generally point to a few small but important factors that should give Greene pause. While she’s grown a hard-core following of the most right-leaning Republicans, even her fellow elected Georgia Republican lawmakers dislike her. In this past redistricting cycle, state Republicans who controlled the process redrew her district to incorporate parts of deep-blue Cobb County, making it more competitive (her current district, according to the Cook Partisan Voting Index, is R+28). There’s also enough disdain for Greene among more establishment Republicans that powerful Republican-aligned groups or some deep-pocketed donor could come in to fuel Strahan’s candidacy into serious contention.

“You have to have someone with the ability to swoop in there, that has the money to push back on that real fast. Because not only does she have millions of dollars, but there’s probably an easy way for her to raise millions of dollars if she’s really in trouble. So she has access to more capital plus other outside groups that may come in for her,” Georgia-based Republican strategist Jay Williams said to me, while stressing how unlikely it is that Greene could lose reelection. “That challenger has to have enough money to give them a shot. But the messaging has to be really good. How are you going to say someone’s more local Republican than she is?”

The major opportunity to oust her really lies with Republicans. The district, even after being redrawn, is so ensconced in the “safe R” category that simply running as a Democrat is, in effect, handing over a big chunk of votes to Greene.

“In our estimation, the 14th District is a safe Republican district. By our measures, visible here, the average performance of that district in a basket of elections is 69 percent Republican, 31 percent Democratic. There is virtually no possibility of her losing her race in November,” Professor Samuel Wang, the director of Princeton University’s Electoral Innovation Lab, wrote to me in an email. “That said, there is the question of what would happen in the primary. My guess is that displacing her would be tough.”

Strahan’s campaign from the start has been pegged as a long shot. She frames herself as a Trump supporter but is also a critic of the rioters who invaded the Capitol on January 6. Her platform is generally focused on small businesses. She wants a Balanced Budget Amendment added to the Constitution, and her campaign literature is all about cutting “waste, fraud & abuse.” This is the line Republican candidates are increasingly trying to walk as they run for office: separate themselves from the worst corners of the GOP (such as the pro-Greene supporters who attacked the Capitol) but don’t stray too far away from fealty to the one-term Republican president who oversaw the party’s loss of the White House, Senate, and House of Representatives. That’s a start, but the support Strahan or any other challenger to Greene needs to build is massive.

“The first thing that would need to happen, which hasn’t happened yet, is there needs to be an avalanche of money to defeat her, and that’s not manifested itself. And even if it would manifest itself, the second question becomes where does the money come from?” said a Georgia Republican strategist who spoke to me on background to be frank about Greene’s prospects. “Does that money have strings attached to it? Is it RINO money, is it Democrat money? For Marjorie Taylor Greene, fundraising is not a problem. She certainly has resources to spend in her district if she feels like she has to, but I’m sure she doesn’t want to.”

Greene, as of the most recent fundraising report, has over $3 million cash on hand, far more than Strahan, although Strahan entered the race in the last fundraising quarter so the next fundraising report will be more indicative of her support.

Republicans frequently note that Greene’s support within the Republican Party is confined to the wing that’s engaged in QAnon conspiracy theories and dangerous notions about the harmlessness of Covid-19. That’s led some to argue that Greene’s district was redrawn both to increase Republicans’ chances of defeating Congresswomen Carolyn Bourdeaux and Lucy McBath and to try to increase the likelihood, even by a small amount, that Greene could lose in a Republican primary. In reacting to the redrawn district, Greene herself said her district should have been “fortified” to retain Republican control and that “it’s nothing more than a losing strategy that leads into the slow slide of Georgia turning blue.”

“I don’t think she’s very respected outside of her bubble. But her bubble is a very strong bubble. It’s tough to penetrate that bubble. She’s got a national profile now,” the Republican strategist said. “She’s very close to Donald Trump. I think there’s a lot of Republicans that view her as our AOC, and unfortunately, she resides in our state. You cringe every time you see a story on what she said or what she’s tweeted.… She doesn’t have a lot of respect from Republicans around the state, but she thrives on that, she enjoys that.”

The Democratic primary, such as it is, is a collection of little-known candidates: Army veteran Marcus Flowers, whom TNR reported on in July, and Georgia Democratic National Committeewoman Wendy Davis are the two most prominent names.

Greene has been punished for embracing the most racist, antisemitic, conspiratorial, and fringe elements of the American electorate, but that punishment has fallen short of an electoral expulsion from Congress. If she does win reelection—which seems likely—her resilience will likely be rewarded. Congressman Kevin McCarthy, the Republican caucus leader in the House, has said that if he becomes House Speaker he will reinstate the committee assignments that Democrats stripped from Greene over her past statements and engagement with QAnon. That was clearly a slap on the wrist. As of now, the forces that allow Greene to continue are on the rise, rather than the forces trying to stop her.