Some GOP congressional candidates seem to think that they only need an endorsement from Donald Trump to win their local Republican primaries and sail on to victory.
Unfortunately for Morgan Ortagus — a former State Department spokeswoman in the Trump Administration and a Florida native — her bid for the Republican nomination for the seat in Tennessee’s 5th Congressional District might require a bit more than a nod from the orange-hued former president Trump to get off the ground.
In a state with a long-standing antipathy to carpetbaggers — a term named after the luggage of choice used by recent arrivals to the South seeking opportunistic political power in the Reconstruction Era after the Civil War — Ortagus has to overcome accusations that as a recent immigrant to the state she knows little about the district that she is running to represent.
Given her recent appearance on a Nashville radio show, it’s uncertain if she’ll ever be able to overcome the stigma of being a newcomer to her newly adopted state unless she does a considerable amount of cramming between now and primary day, Trump endorsement notwithstanding.
Ortagus went on the radio to participate in a quiz designed to test her knowledge of the district she hopes to represent and promptly failed to give the correct answer to the very first question in the quiz.
As someone who would presumably be asked to vote on transportation bills that help fund federal highways if she were to win both the primary and the general election, Ortagus failed to name the three separate interstate highways that run through the district. (For the record, the correct answer is I-65, I-40, and I-24.)
She then proceeded to flub the next question which asked her to name the country music superstar, a famous, multi-Grammy-Award-winning performer, who has a popular winery in the center of the 5th district in Arrington, Tennessee.
While claiming that she knew the vineyard and had attended a picnic there last summer and imbibed their product, Ortagus was unable to conjure the name of the owner of the winery, Tennessean Kix Brooks.
She came up equally empty when asked to identify Brigadier General Robert Reese Neyland. (Apparently, he was a legendary Tennessee football coach for whom Neyland Stadium in Knoxville was named.)
Even a politically oriented question about the names of the four living prior Republican governors of Tennessee was beyond Ortagus’ ken. She was only able to get partial credit, managing to name only one of the four.
She also couldn’t name the well-known NASCAR driver who lives in the 5th District and owns a large auto dealership in the town of Franklin, nor could she identify the only Tennessee governor who went to prison for crimes committed while in office, even after being given the hint that he was a Democrat. (Darrell Waltrip and Ray Blanton, respectively, in case you were wondering.)
Perhaps the most egregious failure in the quiz, however — outside of her inability to completely answer a single question correctly — was her not knowing that the town of Chapel Hill was in Marshal County even though the town is in her prospective district.
Trump’s endorsement of Ortagus may not be enough to help her win her primary, given how little she seems to know about the place she hopes to represent.
It doesn’t help that many of the most extreme right-wing members of the GOP from Congressman Madison Cawthorn (R-NC) to activist Candace Owens are backing another candidate, Robby Starbuck, whom they feel is a more doctrinaire and reliable Trump supporter than Ortagus, who supported Jeb Bush in 2016 and had her wedding officiated by the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
We will just have to wait for the Tennessee primaries to be completed to see whether Trump has backed the wrong horse in this race.
Whoever wins, we can only hope that the primary battle weakens all of the GOP candidates in the race, setting up a Democratic victory in the district.
You can hear Morgan Ortagus’s disastrous radio interview here.
Original reporting by Julie Carr at The Tennessee Star.
Vinnie Longobardo is the Managing Editor of Occupy Democrats. He's a 35-year veteran of the TV, mobile & internet industries, specializing in start-ups and the international media business. His passions are politics, music, and art.