GOP firebrand Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene has been unrelentingly critical and hostile toward Democratic lawmakers, posting an ominous photo of herself – armed – next to liberal members of Congress and "liking" a Facebook comment that recommending putting a bullet in the head of Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
And yet, Greene could be Democrats' best friend as they seek public support for their agenda in the next two years and support for their candidates in 2022.
Greene, whom House Democrats stripped of her committee assignments Thursday in punishment for her conspiracy theory-driven comments, is exactly the GOP image Democrats want voters to see as the majority party struggles – against historical precedents – to hang onto control of the House after the midterms.
While Greene is popular in her Georgia district and expected to retain her seat, she also represents the side of the Republican Party that alienated voters in American suburbs, a trend that contributed heavily to former President Donald Trump's reelection loss in November.
With Trump not actually on the ballot, Greene – who was described during her 2020 campaign as "Donald Trump in heels" – could fill the void, providing a critical boost in districts and states where Democrats will defend competitive seats. And that's easier if Democrats are successful in turning the Republcian Party into the Greene Party.
"If Democrats have their way, they would love to have her as the face of the Republican Party, because it squeezes the party's potential electorate very tightly," says Christopher Borick, director of the Muhlenberg College Institute of Public Opinion in Allentown, Pennsylvania.
"That type of Republican doesn't have the reach in a lot of the districts they will have to compete in, in order to win back the House in 2022," he says.
While Greene may not be a household name, "certainly, nothing draws a crowd like a fight, and nothing draws clicks like controversy," says Republican pollster Whit Ayres. "Greene is "embroiled in controversy that will draw attention away from the more substantive accomplishments Republicans could otherwise do," Ayres adds.
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Trump lost Pennsylvania, Georgia and Arizona in large part because he lost ground in suburban areas in 2020. President Joe Biden gained a few percentage points in suburban areas, and "Trump's loss to Joe Biden was due mostly to voters in large metropolitan suburbs, especially in important battleground states," concluded a demographic study by the Brookings Institution.
Political analysts blamed the defection on Trump himself, saying his nasty tweets, family separation policy for immigrants in the country illegally and comments about women turned off suburban voters – especially women.
The Republican Party is now scrambling to redefine itself, a task made more difficult by the fact that GOPers are divided between those still loyal to Trump and those who want to either hold him accountable or move on from the Trump era entirely.
House Republicans declined to discipline Greene in a closed-door meeting Wednesday night, instead applauding her for renouncing some of her previous comments. The GOP also voted to keep Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming in leadership, despite anger among some of her colleagues over her vote in January to impeach Trump for the second time.
That spares House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California from the ire of Trump and Trump voters, whose support McCarthy likely needs to ensure a GOP takeover and a McCarthy speakership after 2022. But it also meant individual Republicans had to make their choices out in the open.
"I think it was a mistake for McCarthy not to have the Republican caucus discipline her. Now every Republican has to vote on it," risking alienating the Trump camp or the GOP defectors in the electorate, says Charles Bullock III, a University of Georgia political science professor.
Keeping the focus on Greene not only creates problems for GOP House candidates in certain districts around the country but could have implications for the Senate race in Georgia as well, he says.
Democratic Sen. Ralph Warnock and Sen. Jon Ossoff won their seats – and ensured Democratic control of the Senate – by winning run-off elections in January, benefiting from strong support in the Atlanta suburbs. Warnock must defend his seat in 2022, and those same suburbs could make the difference, Bullock says.
Greene is popular among Republicans who have an opinion of her: An Axios/Survey Monkey poll released Thursday found that 28% of Republicans have a favorable view of Greene and 18% have a negative view of her. That could put pressure on GOP lawmakers to go easy on her to avoid a primary challenge.
But among voters overall, Greene does worse, the survey found, with 17% holding a favorable view of the Georgia lawmaker and 37% having an unfavorable opinion. Another 43% don't know enough about her to say.
Democrats want to change that number.
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