How Marjorie Taylor Greene's endorsement of J.D. Vance shows what it takes to make it into the next generation's MAGA clique

Collage: J.D. Vance and Marjorie Taylor Greene
Senate candidate J.D. Vance (R-Ohio), Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.).AP Photo/Jeff Dean; Caroline Brehman/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images
  • Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia endorsed J.D. Vance in the Ohio Senate GOP primary on Tuesday.

  • Greene chose Vance over another leading Trumpian primary candidate, Josh Mandel.

  • The endorsement shows how a new generation of MAGA leaders have coalesced.

While former President Donald Trump remains the most influential figure in the Republican Party and a kingmaker with his endorsements in primary campaigns, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia showed on Tuesday that she's willing to embrace a similar — if smaller — role in shaping the future of the GOP.

Greene's endorsement of J.D. Vance, the "Hillbilly Elegy" author and Ohio Senate candidate, is more evidence of Greene's growing influence among a clique of younger Republicans attempting to set the party's agenda going forward.

Trump has yet to make an endorsement in the May 3 Republican primary for the Ohio Senate seat, which is currently held by retiring Republican Sen. Rob Portman.

Greene had options in the MAGA wing of the primary and is notably snubbing former Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel, who has deployed some of the Trumpiest rhetoric and is leading the primary pack along with Vance. Funded by Silicon Valley billionaire Peter Thiel, Vance has fully embraced Trump after publicly disavowing him during the 2016 campaign.

Frank Luntz, a veteran conservative pollster and strategist, pointed out that the primary process tends to benefit more partisan, ideologically extreme candidates.

"The tougher the talk, the greater the heat," Luntz told Insider. "It's not just about which candidate is more extreme ideologically. It now matters which candidate has the angrier rhetoric and the angrier supporters — and it's happening on both sides."

Despite Trump's loss in the 2020 election, his grip on the party remains firm and his endorsement will ultimately prove the most consequential in the Ohio contest, according to Paul Beck, a political science professor emeritus at The Ohio State University.

"I doubt that Greene's endorsement will mean much to Ohio Republican voters," Beck told Insider. "Most of the others hope that they will get Trump's nod. Trump's endorsement will matter for them."

One feature of this micro-coalition of more dedicated Trump disciples is their ability to help cast out ideological dissenters, such as Republican Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, who was ousted from her House GOP leadership post after repeatedly criticizing Trump for inciting the January 6 insurrection.

At a December 2021 press conference, Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida named members who he sees as the future of the GOP in Congress.

"We are going to take power after this next election," Gaetz said of the 2022 midterms. "When we do, it's not going to be the days of Paul Ryan, and Trey Gowdy, and no real oversight, and no real subpoenas. It's going to be the days of Jim Jordan, Marjorie Taylor Greene, and Dr. Gosar, and myself."

While former Republican members of Congress such as Ryan and Gowdy were known for taking on Democrats, the coalition Gaetz described leans much more into the culture wars and embraces Trump's lies about the 2020 election.

In Trumpworld, the former president's endorsements are kept close to the vest as candidates continue to make the pilgrimage to his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida.

Michael Caputo, who served as Trump's HHS assistant secretary of public affairs and was an early top aide on his 2016 campaign, told Insider that Greene's endorsement of Vance "makes sense" because Vance, who grew up in poverty in rural Ohio, has positioned himself as a defender of the white working class.

"As someone who grew up some in hardscrabble Ohio, where rundown trailers far outnumber well-heeled houses, I've never met J.D. Vance but I know him well," Caputo, who lived in Lima, Ohio, from age 4 to 14, told Insider. "I see him in the face of all my boyhood friends who never made it out. They work two and three jobs to put three squares on the table and coats on their cold kids ... J.D. made it out, but you can tell he doesn't forget."

Read the original article on Business Insider