The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

There’s a reason Republicans didn’t want Greene on the trail

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) in the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center on Nov. 15 in Washington. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

The Republican Party strategy for getting Herschel Walker elected to the Senate from Georgia was blunt. Walker was a particularly problematic candidate, with enormous pre-politics baggage and a tendency to say unhelpful things on the stump.

It got to the point, Politico reported Wednesday, that Walker’s incessant appearances on Fox News necessitated the inclusion of a sitting senator, both so that someone would remember to make an appeal for contributions and to give Walker a senatorial appearance by association. Gov. Brian Kemp (R), fresh off an easy reelection victory, was dispatched to assure Georgians that Walker would be a perfectly capable senator.

They didn’t buy it. Walker lost.

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Enter Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.). The fringe-right legislator appeared on the podcast of fringe-right commentator Stephen K. Bannon on Wednesday to identify a central cause for Walker’s loss: The GOP didn’t have Greene do enough rallies.

“Let me lay this out real clear for everyone to understand — and this is especially for the campaign consultants with the 30,000-foot view, where they look down on Georgia and arrogantly think they know how to win races in this state,” she said. “This is for [Senate Minority Leader] Mitch McConnell and [Sen.] Lindsey Graham and the rest of the Republican senators: You guys are the reasons we are losing races all over the country.”

“Let me let you know something, Steve,” she continued. “I was never asked, very often, by the Herschel Walker campaign to come speak at any of his campaign events. They only asked me to come to maybe two, I think? Two or three in my own district when he was campaigning all over the state.” She added that she found this “extremely insulting.”

It’s very easy after the fact to claim that your approach to a campaign would have resulted in victory. People do it all the time in politics; it’s like the guy who always knows how his football team could have pulled out a victory.

In this case, though, we can be pretty confident in saying that, no, increasing the presence of Marjorie Taylor Greene at Walker campaign events would very much not have helped Walker win.

There’s a reason that the Walker campaign didn’t want Donald Trump to hold a rally for its candidate. Not only is Trump not demonstrably helpful in close races, but there’s research suggesting he’s a detriment. That’s particularly the case here, when the fact is that Kemp, an overtly non-Trumpian candidate, outperformed Walker last month, thanks in part to skepticism from Republicans — including the state’s Republican lieutenant governor! — about Walker’s ability to do the job.

And Greene is viewed about as skeptically as Trump, at least nationally. Polling from YouGov conducted for the Economist shows that Greene is viewed more negatively than positively. On net — subtracting the percentage that views her negatively from the percentage that views her positively — her favorability rating is minus-13, the same as Trump’s. Among Democrats, it’s minus-42, and among independents, minus-14.

But notice that fewer people have opinions of Greene than they do of Trump or President Biden. That’s because a third of the country doesn’t know enough about her to have an opinion. Among those who do, she fares even worse. If we look just at her favorability ratings among those who have a view of her, her net favorability is minus-20, worse than Trump’s, including a minus-56 rating among Democrats and a minus-24 among independents.

Greene’s theory, it’s safe to assume, is one of two things.

Perhaps she thinks that the popularity she enjoys in her district transfers to the state at large, which it certainly does not. Her district backed Trump by 38 points in 2020 while the state voted narrowly for Biden. A Trump loyalist is going to be received very differently in the Atlanta suburbs than in Georgia’s 14th Congressional District.

Or maybe her theory is the one Trump prefers: that winning races simply means browbeating hard-right voters to get to the polls. The more right-wing Georgians who get that encouragement, the more likely victory becomes. So by having Greene appear with Walker, this theory would go, Walker gets an important stamp of approval from the fringe. A stamp of approval, mind you, that somehow had not been conferred by Trump’s promotion of Walker in the first place.

Anyway, this is wrong. If you look at where Republican turnout relative to 2020 was most damaging to Walker, it was in places that voted more heavily for Biden in the last presidential election. Every dot below the centerline on this chart is a county where Republican turnout in the runoff dropped more than Democratic turnout relative to 2020. And, as you can see, it was a bigger problem in bluer areas.

Do you think that places with more Democratic voters would have been more or less receptive to the appearance of Greene at a campaign event? This is left as an exercise to the reader.

Fundamentally, as is so often the case in politics, Greene’s claim comes down to vanity. She spends much of her time around supporters and, more than most elected officials, in a media universe that showers her with praise. Like Trump, she probably assumes that’s largely representative — particularly given her robustly demonstrated lack of interest in objective analysis. She likely thinks that she could have sprinkled a bit of the magic that got her elected in a deeply Trump-friendly district onto Walker and watched him succeed as a result.

I am confident that this idea would not have worked.

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