DES MOINES, Iowa -- She rattled off pull-ups at the Iowa State Fair, trailed by a pack of reporters and onlookers. She dodged questions about her political future. And she railed against government restrictions at a town hall, promising the crowd of hundreds a return trip was on the books.
In short, Georgia U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene’s debut political trip to Iowa was much like the visits of other national Republican figures. Only Greene is trying to build her nationwide profile as a first-term lawmaker whose far-right views and past beliefs in the QAnon conspiracy theory have made her a pariah to many.
The Republican’s visit Thursday to the state fair -- long a rite of passage for politicos jockeying for higher office -- was quite a spectacle.
She spoke with Iowans, visited cows, listened to explanations about tractors and glided down the “Giant Slide,” a staple of the event. She drew protesters, including one that carried a derisive poster who was taken away by security officials. And she attracted a curious crowd of Iowans confused and bemused by the politician at the center of so much attention.
“Who is she?” one teenager asked, pulling out his smartphone to Google the Georgian, just as Greene completed eight pull-ups at a booth promoting the U.S. Marines.
Greene, who represents northwest Georgia, was stripped of committee assignments shortly after taking office for her history of bigoted comments and promotion of violent conspiracy theories. But she’s also a popular figure to some conservatives who praise her attacks on Democrats and fellow Republicans, as well as her unflinching loyalty to former President Donald Trump.
Among them was Brei Johnson, a member of an anti-vaccination online group, who immediately greeted Greene as she visited the state GOP booth. Johnson told the Georgian that she was an inspiration to her daughters.
“She definitely has a strong voice in D.C., and I would champion a lot of her policies and get behind her for sure,” said Johnson.
In remarks to the media, Greene insisted that her constituents in northwest Georgia “absolutely” support her nationwide travel, which has also included recent stops in other Republican-controlled states.
“My district supports me big time,” Greene said of the territory, which was drawn by lawmakers to be a safely conservative House district. “The Democrats wish they could beat me, but they just can’t.”
Aware her visit stoked speculation of a run for higher office, Greene didn’t specify her future plans. Instead, she said her “sole purpose is putting America first” and promoting Trump’s return to the White House in 2024.
“We’re taking our America first message across the country because we have to do everything we can to take our country back,” Greene said.
Greene delivered a similar message at a town hall Thursday evening with U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, a Florida lawmaker who has also alienated many in the GOP for his far-right rhetoric. Most of the more than 200 audience members donned pro-Trump apparel, and none were spotted wearing a mask.
Gary Propstein, a 63-year-old from Des Moines, said he was drawn to the event because of the pro-Trump views of both Gaetz and Greene. He also said he believed the falsehoods about widespread election fraud that the two lawmakers amplified during their remarks.
“America needs to be put first again like Trump did, and Trump needs to be back in office,” Propstein said. “I believe he won the election, and I believe he’ll win again. She believes in America, too.”
During the town hall, Greene blasted the 19 GOP U.S. senators who voted for the bipartisan infrastructure measure and peppered President Joe Biden with criticism for his approach in Afghanistan and his calls for mask requirements and expanded vaccination initiatives. The latter received a particularly enthusiastic response from the crowd.
Lisa Smith of Ottumwa, Iowa, said she has long admired the two Republican lawmakers and was ecstatic when she saw a Facebook post advertising that the pair’s Iowa swing. She said she has not been vaccinated against COVID-19 and said mask requirements and vaccine mandates have made her even more supportive of Gaetz and Greene.
“I used to be just totally into Republican politics, but got burned out on the fakes and the people who let you down,” said Smith, 56. “They are the two people that I see that don’t back down, the people that I see that I think if I was in Congress, that is exactly what I would be saying and doing. And no one else is.”
Jamie Spangler, who works in insurance, brought her nine-year-old daughter Linden to the event. Spangler said she had followed Greene since she entered office and praised her “unbelievably awesome” Christian values.
“It’s a breath of fresh air,” she said, “and I think we need more people like her willing to take a stand.”
Greene, meanwhile, indicated she’s enjoying the burst of attention from her national visits.
“You know we’re going to be back,” she told the Iowa audience. “Oh, we definitely will be back.”