Primary results leave Republican officials with a QAnon problem

Are Republican officials prepared to say they want no part of QAnon conspiracy theorists? It's a question they may not be able to ignore.
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By Steve Benen

Republicans did not have high hopes for this year's U.S. Senate race in Oregon, where incumbent Sen. Jeff Merkley (D) is an overwhelming favorite. But the GOP's odds of pulling an upset deteriorated a few weeks ago when insurance agent Jo Rae Perkins easily won a Republican Senate primary -- which was notable because Perkins appears to be a rather enthusiastic proponent of the fringe QAnon conspiracy theory.

If you're unfamiliar with it, Vox had an explainer a while back, which is as good as any summary. The basic idea is that Donald Trump is secretly at war with nefarious forces of evil, including Democrats, Hollywood celebrities, the "deep state," pedophiles, and cannibals.

This isn't just the usual conspiratorial nonsense bubbling up from the right. It's vastly weirder and more radical. Last year, the FBI went so far as to classify QAnon as a domestic-terror threat in an internal memo.

With this in mind, when an adherent of the QAnon conspiracy theory won a U.S. Senate primary last month, her campaign aides quickly tried to downplay her ties to the extremism. The candidate was not pleased: Jo Rae Perkins said she was "literally physically in tears" after reading her own campaign's statement distancing herself from the extremist ideas.

Republican officials in D.C. generally ignored all of this, in large part because they know Perkins will almost certainly lose and there's little chance of a QAnon adherent becoming a U.S. senator.

But in the U.S. House, it's a different story. As The Daily Beast noted this morning, a QAnon conspiracy theorist is now in "a prime position to soon be elected to Congress, after coming in first in a Republican primary in Georgia on Tuesday."

QAnon conspiracy theorist Marjorie Taylor Greene, who has frequently posted messages about the bizarre pro-Trump conspiracy theory on social media, handily leads the primary field of Republicans in Georgia's heavily Republican 14th District. Greene, who beat her closest opponent by more than 20 percentage points, will head to an August runoff after receiving 41 percent of the vote.

Greene could still lose in the August runoff, but given her strong showing this week, she appears to be the favorite to win the GOP nomination. And given the leanings of this district in northwestern Georgia -- it has a partisan voter index rating of R+27, making it among the reddest districts in the United States -- if Greene wins the Republican nod, her victory in November is effectively a given.

And that may leave GOP leaders in an awkward spot. Will the National Republican Congressional Committee have any reservations about supporting a QAnon adherent after the FBI labeled QAnon as a domestic-terror threat?

There is some historical precedent for Republican leaders deciding one of their own congressional nominees is simply too radical. In fact, just two years ago, a neo-Nazi won a GOP congressional primary in Illinois, and party leaders quickly denounced his candidacy. In the 1960s, party leaders chose to rid themselves of the John Birch Society.

Are Republican officials prepared to say they want no part of QAnon conspiracy theorists? It was a question they could ignore as theoretical up until now. That's likely to soon change.

Postscript: An NBC News report noted last year, "Although the president has never explicitly acknowledged the conspiracy theory, he has retweeted profiles with a Q logo or QAnon messaging in their bios, and he has met and taken an Oval Office photo with a prominent QAnon booster and radio host named Michael William Lebron."

Donald Trump continues to promote content from QAnon adherents on Twitter with some regularity.