Is "Q" running for Congress?

AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin

Ron Watkins denies that he was the man behind the “Q” account on 8kun that inspired QAnon but this year’s HBO documentary on the subject made a compelling case for it, even catching Watkins in an apparent slip-up in which he seemed to cop to it. Could a guy like that stand a chance in a Republican primary in 2021?

Well, this is a party that’s already elected QAnoners (sorry, former QAnoners) to Congress. Why wouldn’t they elect Q himself?

Especially in a state like Arizona where the local party is known for having more than its fair share of cranks.

That’s not to say Watkins will win. Average normie Republicans don’t know who he is so he’d be wiped out in a primary in which he faced a single well-funded establishment candidate. But if the field splits three or more ways, I can imagine his celebrity among conspiracy theorists giving him some legs. And he could certainly leverage that celebrity for fundraising.

Watkins’s problem in a GOP primary isn’t that he’s notorious, it’s that he doesn’t appear to live in Arizona (yet). According to Business Insider, he was living in Japan earlier this year. Vice asked him this week for proof of residency in Arizona and didn’t get a response. Even if he moves there, he’ll only have around eight months to convince voters in Arizona’s First District that a guy who’s been abroad for years and is best known for his association with a global conspiracy movement that believes its political enemies are murdering children is the best person to represent them in the U.S. Congress.

That’s an easy sale to QAnoners in the district but what about the other 90 percent of Republicans? Or 80 percent, or 60 percent, or whatever the non-Q share of the party is nowadays?

On the other hand, Watkins is already working to make powerful friends in Arizona:

But on Tuesday night, the man many believe to be Q took time out of his busy schedule to have dinner with Kari Lake, the Trump-endorsed candidate and front-runner to become Arizona’s next governor…

“Just had dinner with Kari Lake, the next Governor of Arizona,” Watkins wrote. “She inspires me with her tenacity and willingness to lead the fight to take back Arizona from do-nothing RINOs.”…

Lake denied that she had dinner with Watkins. “​​I attended a candidate meet-and-greet at a home last night,” Lake told VICE News. “There were several other candidates in attendance. There were more than 75 Arizona voters there who showed up to hear me speak about our candidacy. I took photos with many of the people who asked for them. I take dozens of photos with Arizonans each day at campaign events across the state.”

Was Watkins lying or was Lake lying? Of the two of them, normally I’d lean towards believing the one who’s not associated with QAnon. But Lake herself is a “stop the steal” conspiracy theorist. I doubt she’d have any moral objection to meeting with Watkins. Maybe denying it is her version of the Glenn Youngkin two-step in Virginia, quietly courting MAGA influencers behind the scenes and then distancing oneself from them publicly when called to account for it.

As for why Trump would have endorsed Lake for governor over more mainstream Republicans, that’s easy. He wants officials in place in swing states who’ll happily overturn the election for him next time if he runs and loses again in 2024. Doug Ducey, Arizona’s current governor, refused to do that for him last year. Lake won’t refuse.

Mike Rothschild, who literally wrote the book on QAnon, thinks Watkins is just scamming people here:

I think the lack of charisma hurts him more than anything. Modern Republicans don’t mind candidates with “colorful” pasts; if anything, they seem to consider it a plus since it proves that person isn’t of the establishment and therefore might be more willing to “fight.” Besides, Watkins’s core message — 2020 was rigged! — plays well with a lot more Republicans than just QAnoners. If he positions himself in the field as the loudest critic of Democrats’ supposed election theft, he might get a look.

Then again, virtually every Republican running as a populist next year will be a loud critic of Democrats’ supposed election theft. Good luck to Watkins in distinguishing himself on that ground.

He’d be a long longshot to get through the primary, but if he did it somehow in a splintered field with financial help from QAnon fans, only a fool would bet on Republican voters supporting Democrat Tom O’Halleran in the general election as the lesser of two evils vis-a-vis Watkins. O’Halleran won by just three points last fall and it’s possible that his district will be redistricted to make it slightly redder. The odds of Congressman Q are small but no one’s too far gone to be ruled out by GOP voters anymore.

It’s fun to imagine what a Democratic House majority would do if Watkins were elected. Would they refuse to seat him due to his role in QAnon or would they let him take his seat, knowing that House Republicans would be pressured by the base into retaliating if Dems booted him even though their reasons were sound? There won’t be a Democratic House majority in 2023, though, so we don’t need to consider that hypothetical. The real question is what Speaker Kevin McCarthy would do or say if he suddenly found Q as a member of his caucus.

And the answer is: Nothing. He wouldn’t do or say anything.

Exit question: Will any Republican pol endorse Watkins if he actually runs? Paul Gosar, right?