MAGA civil war reaches climax in Bob Good primary

The MAGA civil war surrounding House Freedom Caucus Chair Bob Good’s (R-Va.) primary in Virginia’s 5th Congressional District is coming to a head, pitting usual bedfellows against each other.

The intraparty battle has positioned former President Trump against some of his key allies, including his former chief strategist Steve Bannon and Reps. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) and Byron Donalds (R-Fla.), who are supporting Good. Trump has endorsed state Sen. John McGuire, a former Navy SEAL.

For Trump, the contest is incredibly personal, going back to last year, when Good endorsed Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’s (R) presidential bid as Trump was facing multiple indictments.

“This was, ‘This guy screwed me. This guy stabbed me at my lowest time when I got indicted,’” said John Fredericks, a conservative radio talk show host who chaired Trump’s Virginia presidential campaigns in 2016 and 2020. “‘Thanks, Bob.’”

Virginia’s 5th District stretches from the western Richmond suburbs to Charlottesville and Lynchburg and all the way south to the North Carolina border. While the district is a safe, relatively rural Republican seat, its GOP primary has garnered national attention thanks to Trump’s decision to wade in.

Other Republicans, in addition to the former president, have also come out against Good after the incumbent congressman went up against them in other races. Over the weekend, Rep. William Timmons (R-S.C.), who outlasted a Good-backed primary challenger last week, chartered a bus from Washington, D.C., to the 5th District. Former Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) has also launched a revenge effort against those who sought to oust him last year, with Good high up on that list.

Freedom Caucus members Reps. Chip Roy (R-Texas), Andrew Clyde (R-Ga.) and Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) campaigned alongside Good in Louisa County on Friday. But Sunday, Rep. Warren Davidson (R-Ohio), another Freedom Caucus member, publicly turned his back on the group’s chair by endorsing McGuire.

“In order to get that majority vote and succeed and win, you have to blend quite a few things,” said Zack Roday, a Republican strategist based in the district. “The narrative, the challenge of national politics, those factors, but certainly also tactically on the ground you have to be very well-organized.”

Recent polling shows McGuire with a comfortable lead over Good. A survey released Wednesday by the conservative Virginia Faith and Freedom Coalition found McGuire leading Good with 41 percent support to the incumbent’s 31 percent. Twenty-nine percent of survey respondents said they were undecided.

Good’s campaign has touted its ground game, announcing Monday that the candidate has made 208,000 direct voter contacts. The campaign noted the “achievement is more than five times the expected voter turnout for the 5th district primary.”

“I see a lot of signs that Bob Good knows what he’s doing, and certainly John McGuire knows what he’s doing,” Roday said.

Good has been careful in how he has handled Trump, even as the former president leads a revenge effort against him. The congressman has continued to publicly tie himself to Trump; prior to the former president’s endorsement of McGuire, Good even traveled with other congressional Republicans to New York City to support Trump in his criminal hush money trial.

Good’s campaign has put up yard signs labeling him as a “Trump Republican” and has included the phrase “Make America Great Again” in press releases. Last month, Trump’s attorneys sent Good a cease-and-desist letter ordering Good to stop using Trump’s name and likeness in his campaign material.

“What Good has done a good job in is trying to muddy waters by the yard signs,” one Republican strategist said. “He’s running as a Trump ally, so he’s trying to neutralize the endorsement.”

While Republicans point out the race has created an obvious division within the party, many are skeptical it will have any consequences for the GOP beyond Tuesday’s primary.

“This is not tearing up the party as much as people think. There’s a reason why Donalds and Gaetz are endorsing Good,” the same Republican strategist said.

The strategist noted how Good and many of his allies are united in their association with the conservative group the Club for Growth. In addition to Good, the group has backed Donalds, Gaetz, Roy, Clyde and Biggs.

“There’s going to be no dissension afterwards, but it is about Trump making a point about who’s running the party and Bob Good not being able to read the tea leaves,” the strategist said.

Others say the internal squabble between the House conservatives should not come as a shock.

“Freedom Caucus members going after their own is no surprise,” said Doug Heye, a GOP strategist. “It seemed inevitable from its creation.”

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