/Why Republicans ousted Cawthorn but not Marjorie Taylor Greene

Why Republicans ousted Cawthorn but not Marjorie Taylor Greene

  • Republican Reps. Madison Cawthorn and Marjorie Taylor Greene have both caused headaches for the GOP.
  • But Greene cruised to victory in her Tuesday primary, while Cawthorn lost his.
  • Cawthorn faced the wrath of the GOP establishment, but Greene has been able to avoid the same fate.

First there were the driving infractions, gun-related incidents, and ethics issues. Then came the explosive comments about everyone from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Then, when he claimed his colleagues participated in cocaine-fueled orgies, Republicans had enough of freshman Rep. Madison Cawthorn. 

The North Carolinian’s GOP primary loss to state Sen. Chuck Edwards, who was backed by several North Carolina Republican heavyweights, represented a stunning fall for a 26-year-old congressman, a once-rising star in Republican politics.

His ouster also raises a question of why local and national Republicans alike haven’t similarly mobilized to boot Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, another prominent freshman Republican with a penchant for inflammatory statements and rankling fellow Republicans.  

“I think both of their reputations are terrible,” a member of the Republican National Committee told Insider, requesting anonymity to speak candidly about the state of the party.

“He made the mistake of directly accusing Republicans of something,” the RNC member said of Cawthorn, “where she says bad things about whole groups of people — but generally not about other [GOP] Congress people.”

Greene, elected to a safe red district in Georgia in 2020, was removed from her committee assignments shortly into her term 2021 over a series of inflammatory, conspiratorial, and anti-Semitic tweets she posted before holding office and had her personal account permanently suspended from Twitter in 2022.

She’s gotten into in-person confrontations with her colleagues on Capitol Hill, including one that spurred a Democratic member to move offices. But as the RNC member noted, Greene has tended to lay off her GOP colleagues with some exceptions, such as Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, who’s fighting for survival in a primary race set to take place on August 16.

More recently, Greene’s come under scrutiny for an outburst at President Joe Biden’s state of the union address and for also speaking at a white-nationalist conference headlined by Nick Fuentes, who the Anti-Defamation League has described as a “well-known white supremacist pundit and organizer.”

But on Tuesday night, Greene easily defeated multiple Republican primary challengers with nearly 70% of the vote, facing no coordinated opposition from the Republican party apparatus in her state. 

A map of Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene's primary election victory

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene easily jettisoned her rivals for the GOP primary in her deeply-Republican congressional district

Screenshot via Insider/Decision Desk HQ


Firstly, Greene had a big financial edge. She established herself as a highly effective small-donor fundraiser early on, and has used her platform and fundraising prowess to boost other Republican candidates. She’s also joined forces with fellow high-profile House Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz to form a joint fundraising committee. 

So far in the 2022 cycle, she’s raised a whopping $9.2 million, spent $6.6 million, and has $3 million in cash on hand.

Cawthorn, on the other hand, also made a big splash on social media but failed to match it with similarly prolific fundraising. He only brought in $3.6 million, spent nearly all of it, and has just over $130,000 in cash on hand — less than half of the nearly $325,000 in debt his campaign holds.

Cawthorn still significantly outraised and outspent his challengers, including Edwards — but it wasn’t enough to save him in the end. 

Like other ambitious politicians seeking to boost their profiles, Cawthorn had a leadership PAC, which he acronymized to MADISON. But the PAC only brought in $10,000 in 2022, and shut down within 24 hours of Cawthorn losing his primary.

Greene is also adept at attracting and energizing a crowd, as Insider’s Warren Rojas reported from a rally held for gubernatorial candidate David Perdue in Greene’s district. 

Cawthorn, on the other hand, was largely MIA in his own district in the weeks leading up to his primary, Politico Magazine’s Michael Kruse documented for a deeply-reported piece on the last days of Cawthorn’s campaign.

“In the middle of last week, in the middle of the day, in the middle of a campaign, his main district office was locked. ‘WORKING BY APPOINTMENT ONLY,’ said a sign on the door,” Kruse wrote, adding that “at a meet-and-greet at a gun store in Cherokee County, a supporter positioned his pickup truck to block the view of a photographer from POLITICO.”

The group that posted a viral sexually explicit video of a nude Cawthorn in bed with another man didn’t bother with Greene’s race and is now focusing instead on Rep. Lauren Boebert of Colorado for its next takedown.

“MTG, for all her faults and disgusting behavior and the desire on our part to take her down, that’s just not gonna happen in that district — ever,” David B. Wheeler, a Democrat and co-founder of the American Muckrakers PAC, told Insider. “Even if she got indicted, or was caught robbing a bank, she’s still gonna get reelected in that district. They love her.”

“We’re not gonna spend resources or donors’ money just to raise donor money and then waste it,” Wheeler added. “So that’s why we’re out here chasing Lauren Boebert.”

While Greene may cause headaches with a considerable degree of frequency for congressional Republican leadership, Cawthorn’s ouster became personal for the party establishment, the RNC member explained.

“It was personal for them to get rid of him, I think, more personal because of the direction he took,” the RNC member said, referencing Cawthorn’s cocaine orgy comments. “And clearly he shouldn’t be there in the first place, but neither should she.”

Nicole Gaudiano contributed reporting. 

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