Trump, Kevin McCarthy and other Republicans gang up on Freedom Caucus chair in primary

by Admin
Trump, Kevin McCarthy and other Republicans gang up on Freedom Caucus chair in primary

GOOCHLAND, Va. — For Rep. Bob Good, Tuesday’s primary is about much more than the next member of Congress representing Virginia’s 5th District.

“The nation is watching,” the Virginia Republican told a few dozen supporters gathered outside the historic county courthouse on a muggy Friday evening. He warned that this race is about the “D.C. establishment swamp who wants to buy your seat.”

Good, who chairs the hard-right House Freedom Caucus, told his supporters that he is former Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s top target, as McCarthy looks to take down the small group of Republicans who ousted him late last year. McCarthy’s first effort fell short last week when Rep. Nancy Mace of South Carolina won her primary.

But McCarthy is just one player lined up against Good in a race that could see him become the first member of Congress to lose to a primary challenger this year. There’s also the most important endorsement in Republican politics working against him: former President Donald Trump.

Trump endorsed Good’s opponent, state Sen. John McGuire, a former Navy SEAL and “Stop the Steal” rally participant, late last month. The former president made a veiled reference to Good endorsing Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis in the presidential primary, writing on social media that Good “was constantly attacking and fighting me until recently.”

Trump is holding a tele-rally for McGuire on Monday night, and he appeared in a 15-second TV ad to boost McGuire. His endorsement could sway some voters who were skeptical of Good in the deep-red district, which stretches from the Richmond suburbs to the state’s southern border.

“I’ve had many people say, ‘I don’t know anything about you, never mentioned before, but Trump’s endorsing you, I’ve got you,’” McGuire told NBC News.

Tuesday’s race is the first time Good is facing a traditional primary. In 2020, Good ousted then-Rep. Denver Riggleman, who had Trump’s endorsement as well, in a drive-through convention amid the Covid pandemic.

“I mean [Good] was for Trump, against Trump, for Trump, against Trump,” McGuire supporter Bruce Jaggard, a 76-year-old retiree, said at the “Village Vibe” concert in neighboring Powhatan on Friday.

“You never know where he stands,” Jaggard said. “And that bothers me.”

The anti-Good coalition

Good is clearly sensitive about Trump endorsing his opponent, telling NBC News before a short interview that everyone already knows Trump backed his opponent — as if to blunt any questions on it.

Good declared himself “behind President Trump,” adding: “I’m sure the president will be supporting me on June 19 after we win.”

The delicate dynamic around Trump was in view during Good’s event, as the congressman referenced “somebody” promising to make him “unelectable.” That person was likely top Trump adviser Chris LaCivita, who told a local Virginia outlet in January: “Bob Good won’t be electable when we get done with him.”

But Trump and McCarthy are part of a broad coalition trying to take down Good, which includes several of his own House GOP colleagues.

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, who was booted from the Freedom Caucus last summer, has been a big Good critic. At least five other GOP lawmakers have donated to McGuire’s campaign. One House GOP member chartered a bus to the 5th District from Washington on Saturday to help fellow lawmakers campaign for the challenger.

And even a member of Good’s own Freedom Caucus, Rep. Warren Davidson, broke ranks Sunday to endorse McGuire, calling for “reinforcements to help Make America Great Again.”

But just as members are engaging against Good, some of the Freedom Caucus’ most outspoken members have been making visits around the district on behalf of their colleague.

Defending Main Street, a super PAC supporting more centrist Republicans, also made the rare move to target an incumbent, boosting McGuire in the race.

“He would support Donald Trump and his initiatives in building the wall, controlling immigration,” Sarah Chamberlain, president of the Republican Main Street Partnership, recently told NBC News. “These are all things that Bob Good did not do.”

Chamberlain said Good’s vote to oust McCarthy prompted the group to dig into his record, and they determined McGuire would be a better fit for the district. Chamberlain said they discussed McGuire’s actions on Jan. 6, 2021, with him, noting he did not enter the Capitol that day.

“We certainly didn’t count that against him,” she said.

“Yeah, I went there,” McGuire said of going to both Trump’s “Stop the Steal” rally and to the U.S. Capitol grounds on Jan. 6. “We felt like we were being cheated.”

Virginia 5th Congressional District Primary (Bill Clark / CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)

Virginia 5th Congressional District Primary (Bill Clark / CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)

McGuire’s openness to conspiracy theories shone through at other parts of the interview, including when he called the Covid-19 pandemic “the plan-demic” — touting a conspiracy theory that the pandemic, which originated in China and spread worldwide, was a ploy to be able to change voting rules around drop boxes and mail-in voting in the U.S. There is no proof of that.

McGuire would not promise to certify the results of the 2024 election if elected to Congress, saying that he would “need to see what happens” and adding at another point, “I can understand why people lack trust in elections.”

The McCarthy factor

McCarthy allies have blanketed the Virginia district’s airwaves ahead of Tuesday’s vote. Outside groups tied to the former speaker have spent $6.9 million on ads in the race, according to the ad tracking firm AdImpact, while Good has gotten boosts from outside groups tied to Club for Growth Action, the House Freedom Caucus and GOP Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky.

McGuire said he and McCarthy have discussed this primary battle, though McGuire told NBC News that he doesn’t know the former speaker.

“About a month ago, I shook his hand” at the Capitol Hill Club in Washington, D.C., McGuire said. “He was nice to me.” He added that they have connected a few times by phone, too, over the course of this race.

“Advice, like, ‘Hey, am I doing the right thing?’” McGuire said, describing the chats with McCarthy. “And he’s like, ‘Keep charging.’ More of a pep talk kinda thing. But never any strategy or anything. I think I should have asked him that, but I didn’t.”

Good’s allies have framed the race as McCarthy and the Washington establishment trying to take down the hard-right conservative wing of the party, with some of Good’s Freedom Caucus colleagues joining him on the campaign trail Friday.

“This is a move not to just crush Bob Good as chairman. This is a move to crush the Freedom Caucus,” Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Ariz., told the 50 or so gathered Virginians. Taking a jab at the former speaker, Biggs said the race “is being supported by a very bitter, upset individual who wants to be relevant.”

Though it’s brought money and attention into the race, it’s not clear how much the vote to oust McCarthy will actually resonate with voters.

“The outcome will be determined by the candidates, their organization and Donald Trump,” said Zack Roday, a GOP strategist with experience in Virginia who is not involved in the race.

But McCarthy’s ouster did matter to at least a few voters on opposing sides of the primary.

One woman at the Powhatan concert, who declined to share her name, said the McCarthy vote factored into her decision to support McGuire.

“The timing was horrible,” she said, with a “John McGuire: Trump endorsed” lawn sign leaning against her lawn chair. “And all it did was feed on the Democrats: Oh, these Republicans can’t get their act together.”

Karen Piscarz, a retiree from Goochland who was also at the Friday concert, said it “absolutely” affected her decision to support Good.

“I liked that he stuck his neck out when everybody was saying, ‘Why are you doing that?’ And I think [House Speaker] Mike Johnson is making a big difference,” she said.

“It matters to people who are paying attention,” Dale Agnew, a Good supporter, said of the incumbent’s vote against McCarthy. “Not everyone pays attention.”

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