Marjorie Taylor Greene builds national profile with Trump’s ‘America First’ message

DES MOINES, Iowa — U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene might have been mistaken for any other tourist attending the Iowa State Fair as she checked out the farm equipment and livestock last week. But once her town hall started that evening, there was no mistaking what she was there for.

She railed against government restrictions during the coronavirus pandemic and celebrated what she describes as an “America First” value system. Greene blasted the 19 GOP U.S. senators who voted for the bipartisan infrastructure bill and criticized President Joe Biden’s approach in Afghanistan and his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The crowd loved it.

Her ability to attract attention well beyond her northwest Georgia district has made Greene one of the state’s highest-profile elected officials, even if party leaders keep her at arm’s length. She has a vast following on social media and is one of the U.S. House’s most prolific fundraisers; her $4.8 million haul during the first six months of 2021 is in the top 10 of all sitting members.

Still, the Rome Republican is a polarizing figure whose influence in Washington is limited but growing. Democrats stripped her of committees because of her history of bigoted comments and promotion of violent conspiracy theories. But that freed her to do what she’s doing now: raising her profile by being active on social media and traveling across the nation for rallies with other conservative Republicans.

Both Greene’s supporters and critics who track her movements acknowledge that she has become a leading voice in the national Republican Party, even as they wonder what that means for the future.

Conservatives, especially supporters of former President Donald Trump, praise her attacks on liberals and their favored issues, as well as the Republicans who sometimes work with them. She has repeated the former president’s false claims about widespread election fraud in Georgia.

Over the past few months, Greene has expanded her base of support with attention-grabbing visits to states such as California and Florida.

A jaunt through Iowa is considered an essential stop for politicians eyeing national office, but Greene said her visit wasn’t about that. Instead, she describes her travels as a way to spend time with supporters and support small businesses, limited government and a return to what she describes as traditional American values.

“Taking that message and reminding everyone across the country that we don’t have to be divided, that America First policies really work for all of us,” she said recently. “That’s the message I’m trying to bring and, guess what, that’s the message that is being so well received in pretty much every state that I go to.”

Asked whether she is considering running for a higher public office, she said she doesn’t know what the future holds.

Her goal, she said, is to talk about her values and contrast them with those who control Washington, including Biden but also Republicans who have been insufficiently supportive of Trump. She has fought against mask mandates and spread misinformation about the COVID-19 vaccine. She describes the Black Lives Matter movement in negative terms and has posted anti-transgender messages outside her office.

Her supporters say Greene represents their beliefs and their worries. Several attendees at the Iowa rally said they came out because they saw Greene as a “relatable” politician who expresses her views bluntly and in simple terms, as they would. And they don’t mind that she ruffles feathers in the process.

“She relates to my day-to-day as a mom, what I believe, and I agree with what she’s fighting for,” said Nicole Nau, a 37-year-old administrative assistant from central Iowa. “I strongly believe in Trump’s policies, and I love seeing that there are ones still pushing to keep Trump’s policies going.”

Drawing a crowd and critics in Iowa

While at the fair, Greene attracted a curious crowd of Iowans confused and bemused by the woman at the center of so much attention. But she drew protesters, too, including one that carried a derisive poster who was taken away by security officials.

Critics have started following Greene just about wherever she goes. Last month, protesters crashed a Washington press conference Greene, Florida U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz and other members of the House Freedom Caucus tried to hold outside of Justice Department headquarters. They were questioning the treatment of people in custody facing charges of participating in the Jan. 6 Capitol riot.

At a news conference Tuesday held by members of the Freedom Caucus, a trio of women began shouting when Greene took the microphone to criticize Biden on Afghanistan.

One of the women, Carrie Fowler, had also been among the protesters in Iowa. A resident of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and an advocate for Medicaid expansion, Fowler considers Greene a distraction who needs to be supplanted by more reasonable voices.

“I just don’t believe that she deserves a platform to spew her hate and her lies,” Fowler said. “She represents everything that is wrong with this country. There is no reason she should be an elected official.”

Greene says her travel doesn’t prevent her from representing her district, which she says “supports me big time.” She noted that Democrats face nearly insurmountable odds flipping her solidly conservative seat.

But she’s also worked to remain visible in her territory, hosting meetings with constituents and town halls. She shows up at GOP rallies and has office locations in Dalton and Rome with staffers who over the past eight months have closed roughly 400 cases ranging from veterans needing assistance to passport issues.

Even in speeches at home, Greene carries that familiar message of praising Trump and blasting anyone she feels gets in the way of his agenda, including Democrats and fellow Republicans.

“We’ve got to clear something up: Who won the presidential race on Nov. 3 for Georgia?” she asked a crowd of a few hundred at a town hall meeting in Dalton in May. The attendees bellowed Trump’s name in response.

There are also increasing signs she’s no longer the outlier she once was, that Republicans see her not as a loose cannon but someone who has built name recognition and the war chest that comes with it. Former critics and other party figures are sidling up to her — or trying to emulate her appeal.

U.S. Rep. Jody Hice, a Freedom Caucus member who last year rescinded his endorsement of Greene after her racist and xenophobic comments surfaced, introduced her at a recent event in her district as a truth-telling crusader. Candidates for congressional seats in other parts of Georgia made it a point to be seen working the crowd at the event in Dalton.

And at a GOP rally in Rome, where attendees were greeted with vendors hawking “Trump Won” signs and T-shirts, Greene was mobbed by supporters after her speech, getting far bigger ovations than Gov. Brian Kemp and other statewide figures.

Among those supporters was Mickey Tuck, a longtime leading Republican figure in Floyd County. He said some fellow GOP activists in the area have called him complaining they can’t get through to Greene’s office and resorted to contacting U.S. senators for help. He tells them it’s probably because of “people calling in from all over the nation either happy or mad with her.”

“The people here, for the most part, love her and think she is fighting for them,” Tuck said. “They like her being in the national spotlight.”