In these days of semi-spontaneous, web-based political fundraising, party strategists are often frustrated by inefficient money sinkholes: big stacks of cash going to candidates with no real chance of winning, even as those who might win with sufficient resources go hungry and lose. For example, in 2020, Kentucky Democrat Amy McGrath spent an incredible $90 million in her race against Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, outpacing the incumbent by $26 million — but then losing by 20 points. That same year, South Carolina Democrat Jaime Harrison spent an even more incredible $130 million, $34 million more than incumbent Republican Lindsey Graham, only to lose by ten points. Some of that Democratic money sure could have helped North Carolina Democratic Senate candidate Cal Cunningham, who narrowly lost his race, not to mention many Democratic gubernatorial, U.S. House, or down-ballot candidates.
Something similar could be going on this year in the heavily Republican 14th Congressional District of Georgia, infamously represented by Marjorie Taylor Greene, who went from a QAnon-adjacent, AR-15-wielding political novice in 2020 to a freshman congresswoman who has already been stripped of her committee assignments for chronic extremism. Greene just created a new firestorm by speaking at a white-supremacist conference, shortly before joining her friend Lauren Boebert in heckling President Biden during the State of the Union. Though House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy has mumbled evasively about “talking to” Greene (and fellow firebug Paul Gosar) for showing up at the racist clambake, the reality is that embarrassed Republicans in Washington and elsewhere are hoping the voters of her district do them the favor of prematurely sending her back to the fever swamps from which she recently emerged.
The good news for those who would like to get MTG out of Congress is that by the end of 2021, an estimated $6.5 million had been raised by seven people looking to challenge her in the 2022 midterms. The bad news is that all but a small share of that loot was raised by Democrats, who have very little chance of winning in one of the reddest districts anywhere. And the Republican with the best chance of unseating Greene in the GOP primary barely has two dimes to rub together.
Unsurprisingly, Democrats around the country who are horrified by Greene have been receptive to Donkey Party candidates claiming they can take her down. The most successful fundraiser has been Afghanistan and Iraq veteran and former military contractor Marcus Flowers, dubbed “the most mysterious person in American politics” by The New Republic’s Jacob Silverman because his campaign has disclosed so little about his background. One thing we do know about Flowers is that he can rattle a cup with the best of them: He had raised $4.6 million by the end of 2021, 87 percent of it in donations under $200. Still, he probably has little chance of winning a general election in a district that FiveThirtyEight calculates has a 45-point Republican “lean” (i.e., it is 45 percentage points more Republican than the country as a whole), particularly in a midterm election where GOP candidates will likely enjoy a significant wind at their backs. It doesn’t help that Flowers’s home county was recently taken out of the 14th District in redistricting.
Flowers isn’t the only Democratic Greene opponent raising some serious money. Another political novice, insurance agent Holly McCormack, has raised $1.3 million, three-fourths of it in small donations. While Flowers has stressed his military background as potentially appealing to independent and anti-Greene Republican voters, McCormack has offered a more straightforward bipartisan pitch. There’s also a third Democrat, Rome city councilwoman Wendy Davis, who has raised more than $300,000.
Meanwhile, the candidate nearly universally identified as Greene’s most formidable Republican opponent hasn’t raised even half of that. Jennifer Strahan, another political novice, is being backed by three of the five commissioners in Greene’s home county (Floyd) and has gotten some national attention from fellow conservatives. She’s running strictly on a message that the 14th deserves a congresswoman who can sit on committees and work quietly without creating a constant spectacle … you know, a performing, rather than a performative, MAGA champion. But as of the end of 2021, she had raised only $109,000 and had a paltry $60,000 in cash on hand, compared to Greene’s $3.5 million (on fundraising of nearly $7.5 million).
As Tia Mitchell of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution puts it, “Greene doesn’t just have the benefit of incumbency. She has the power of being a Republican in a conservative district who has close ties to former President Donald Trump, national name recognition and more money in the bank than all the other candidates combined.” And she can turn on a money spigot each time she pulls another outrageous stunt. These antics will make money roll in for her opponents, too, but it will mostly go to the Democrats competing to challenge Greene in the general election. And that contest will likely be over before it starts, letting Greene remain in Congress though Democrats and a good number of Republicans want to see her go.
More on the Midterms
- The Data-Driven Strategy Behind Democrats’ State-Level Success in 2022
- No, Ron DeSantis Isn’t the Second Coming of Ronald Reagan
- Why 2022’s Big Lesson for Democrats Might Be … Nothing