Ohio U.S. Senate candidate J.D. Vance has a problem. As New York’s Sarah Jones explained right after he announced his bid last summer, the Hillbilly Elegy author is a MAGA parvenu:
Vance’s campaign will face serious headwinds, despite his national fame and a $10 million investment from Peter Thiel. A best-selling book does not necessarily translate to electoral appeal; neither does the critically panned adaptation of that book. The Senate race will likely orient around the Trumpiest candidate, and there Vance might anticipate some trouble.
Vance was once dismissive of Trump, saying as late as October 2016 that he intended to vote for anti-Trump conservative presidential candidate Evan McMullin. But now he’s in a crowded Senate primary full of MAGA bravos, like former state treasurer Josh Mandel, former state party chair Jane Timken, and wealthy business types Mike Gibbons and Bernie Moreno. Vance has clearly decided that loud-and-proud right-wing “populist” Trumpism is his ticket to the political big leagues, so he has gone long and secured an endorsement from the most extreme MAGA pol available: Marjorie Taylor Greene.
Having been permanently banned from Twitter for serially spreading COVID-19 misinformation, Greene could not endorse Vance on that platform. But her lengthy statement on his behalf claimed the former investment banker would “fight to end unconstitutional vaccine and mask mandates, break up big tech companies that censor conservatives, expand American manufacturing by putting tariffs on the woke corporations that ship our jobs overseas, and will do everything in his power to secure the border and stop Biden’s repeated attempts to grant amnesty to millions of illegals.” And she’s not just offering a distant endorsement: She plans to join Vance on the campaign trail in Ohio this weekend.
Vance has certainly laid the groundwork for a Greene endorsement, as Vox’s Aaron Rupar observed even before Vance made his candidacy official:
In recent months, Vance has approvingly retweeted the likes of Donald Trump Jr. and Dinesh D’Souza; done softball interviews with Tucker Carlson and far-right former Trump administration official Seb Gorka; tweeted Trump-style attacks on the media (for instance asking, “Why are so many members of the press such incredible babies?”); and promoted a QAnon-inspired conspiracy theory by suggesting a group of unrelated sexual misconduct cases is evidence of a cabal.
But nothing says extreme quite like MTG. Even before her election to Congress, when she was a novice pol making national headlines as a QAnon-touting, violence-espousing candidate who rarely appeared without an AR-15 in her hands, she became a factor in a U.S. Senate race when Senator Kelly Loeffler sought and obtained her endorsement in a Georgia special-election contest. Loeffler had some of the same problems then that Vance has now: She was being savaged by Trump favorite and special-election rival Doug Collins as a RINO even as the governor who appointed her to the Senate, Brian Kemp, was on the brink of solidifying his position as a Trump enemy. Having launched campaign ads calling herself “more conservative than Attila the Hun,” Loeffler finally fought and won the MTG primary, and while she eventually lost her Senate seat in a runoff to Democrat Raphael Warnock, nobody got to her right. Vance could use some of the same wild magic on May 3, when Ohio Republicans vote.
Beyond the potential significance of Greene’s endorsement to the Ohio Senate race, it has to be sobering to the more thoughtful Republicans to watch this cartoon character become a national political force. She has now been in Congress just over a year. Her only accomplishments, best I can tell, have been losing her committee assignments thanks to revelations of the hateful and violent things she said on a host of social-media posts in the very recent past and ringing up record fines for defying House rules mandating mask use on the floor (she is, of course, proudly unvaccinated). She appears to spend much of the time she saves by having no real work running around the country with her buddy Matt Gaetz like a sort of evil Johnny Appleseed who starts fires instead of planting trees. Yet she’s raised over $6 million for her reelection campaign in a deep-red district and appears to have struck fear in the heart of House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy, who can’t bring himself to rebuke her seriously.
Junior members of Congress used to be expected to keep their heads down, do grunt work on committees, salute when spoken to by more senior colleagues, and eventually earn the right to make some noncontroversial remarks on the House floor now and then. That anybody in Ohio has even a clue who Marjorie Taylor Greene is a very bad sign for Congress, the Republican Party, and American politics.