Trump clashes with allies in Bob Good’s bitter Virginia primary

Rep. Bob Good’s (R-Va.) Tuesday primary in Virginia’s 5th Congressional District is pitting former President Trump against some of his top allies and inflaming bitter ideological tensions in the House GOP.

The contentious race could result in the first House incumbent primary loss of 2024 — and the first success for former Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s (R-Calif.) revenge campaigns against those who voted to oust him.

Trump last month endorsed Good’s challenger John McGuire, a Virginia state senator and a Navy SEAL, in an apparent act of revenge.

Good is the chair of the House Freedom Caucus, the hard-line conservative group that has often been aligned with the former president. But he was also one of a handful of House Republicans to endorse Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis for president in the GOP primary. Even though Good avoided criticism of Trump and swiftly endorsed the former president after DeSantis dropped out, Trump said his endorsement was “too late.”

“The damage had been done!” Trump wrote on Truth Social.

McGuire is also being boosted by Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), who last year parted ways with the Freedom Caucus after tense clashes with others in the group. She has consistently criticized Good.

But many of Trump’s other staunch defenders in Congress are backing the second-term Virginia Republican, including Reps. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) and Byron Donalds (R-Fla.), a reported contender to be Trump’s running mate.

Good this week brushed off questions about whether he regretted endorsing DeSantis.

“It’s time to come behind President Trump. I’m not focused on an endorsement from 13 months ago,” Good said.

“It’s gonna be close anytime you have a former president coming out against you — I think meritless … He’s got some bad advice,” Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) said of the Trump endorsement. Roy is a Freedom Caucus member who is backing Good and also supported DeSantis.

“But that’s fine. We’ll go down and fight it out,” Roy added.

However, Trump’s allies who are supporting McGuire say Good’s move to endorse DeSantis in the wake of the former president’s legal indictments hit a deeply personal nerve with the former president.

“One stood with Trump, the other stabbed Trump and the movement in the back, and that is what this campaign is about,” said John Fredericks, a conservative radio talk show host, who chaired Trump’s Virginia presidential campaign in 2016 and 2020.

Despite not receiving Trump’s endorsement, Good has tied himself to the former president in his messaging to constituents.

“The yard signs say ‘Trump Republican,’” said Zack Roday, a Virginia Republican strategist based in the district. “In all of the mail … it’s ‘will enact Trump’s agenda.’”

While lawmakers on Capitol Hill are making their own political calculations about whom to support in the primary, it’s less clear how the district’s voters are reacting to endorsements from figures like Trump and McCarthy.

“That is very inside baseball,” Roday said, referring to players like McCarthy seeking to use their endorsement ad revenge against Good. “It matters for fundraising; it matters for those elements of it, but for actually what impacts a vote in the district, that’s not it.”

Roday added that, overall, the Trump endorsement is “undoubtedly helpful” in the district.

Even though he did not get his endorsement, Good attended Trump’s speech to House Republicans just outside the Capitol this week — during which Trump singled out one of the members who voted to impeach him, Rep. David Valadao (R-Calif.), and commented that some other people in the room might not like him very much. Leaving the meeting, Good declined to answer reporters’ questions.

Good, who unseated former Rep. Denver Riggleman (R-Va.) in the district’s 2020 nominating convention, has never run in a primary nomination process. One unnamed Republican strategist referred to Good as “an incumbent with an asterisk.”

Additionally, the district has since been redistricted, expanding the lines as far east as Goochland County in the Richmond region.

Strategists say that could present an advantage for McGuire, who has represented the greater Richmond region in the state Senate and House of Delegates.

“If McGuire can clean up where he represents with getting a huge margin there, then I would imagine it’s pretty difficult because the rest of the district is going to know that Trump’s behind him,” Roday said.

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

“The problem Bob is having is not just that he supported DeSantis, it’s not just that he votes the way he does, or voted against McCarthy or anything like that — although he did help us create a very interesting coalition,” said the unnamed Virginia-based strategist.

“Where Bob fell short was not doing the work in his first two terms to introduce himself to his people, represent his people,” the strategist continued. “He would go to D.C., try to find a camera, and then come home.”

Good’s move to join with seven other Republicans and all Democrats in voting to remove McCarthy last year is also fueling support for McGuire.

McCarthy’s Majority Committee PAC has given $10,000 to McGuire’s campaign.

If defeated, Good’s loss would mark the first success for McCarthy’s revenge tour against those who voted to remove him. Rep. Nancy Mace (R-S.C.), one of those who helped ousted him, prevailed in her primary last week. McCarthy’s PAC had donated $10,000 to Mace’s primary rival.

Good’s McCarthy-ousting vote also inspired a fair number of GOP House members to support McGuire, particularly members who are ideologically opposed to him and the Freedom Caucus’s hard-line tactics.

“The majority of the majority, they’re sick of being pushed around by the minority of the majority,” said Rep. Derrick Van Orden (R-Wis.), one of the members supporting McGuire.

“If I was the coach of a team, and one of the members on the team — say it’s a baseball team — was cutting people’s shoelaces in the dugout before the game, I would fire that person because they’re not part of the team,” Van Orden said.

It’s part of a larger trend of Republicans endorsing challengers to incumbent colleagues this cycle in attempts to eliminate their ideological and tactical enemies.

“The overall goal is to pull this conference in the direction that is the best for the American people,” Roy said of his support for Good.

Rep. Don Bacon (R-Neb.) said he decided to endorse McGuire as a response to Good endorsing his own hard-right challenger — whom Bacon defeated earlier this year.

“If you’re gonna bomb my Pearl Harbor, I’m gonna nuke two of your cities. That’s my mindset,” Bacon said.

Roy noted that there had been other members who endorsed McGuire before Good backed Bacon’s challenger.

Several of Good’s Freedom Caucus colleagues — Roy and Reps. Andrew Clyde (R-Ga.) and Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) — went to campaign events for Good in his district in the days before the primary.

“He’s a very conservative, strong leader, and a member who supports and defends the Constitution. So he’s exactly the kind of member we want,” Clyde said.

Updated at 3:02 pm.

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