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Trump, Kevin McCarthy and other Republicans unite to chair Freedom Caucus in primaries

Trump, Kevin McCarthy and other Republicans unite to chair Freedom Caucus in primaries
Trump, Kevin McCarthy and other Republicans unite to chair Freedom Caucus in primaries

 


GOOCHLAND, Va. For Rep. Bob Good, Tuesday's primary is about 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 county's historic courthouse on a sweltering Friday evening. He warned that this race is about the D.C. establishment swamp that wants to buy your seat.

Good, who chairs the far-right House Freedom Caucus, has told supporters he is former Speaker Kevin McCarthy's top target, as McCarthy seeks to unseat the small group of Republicans who ousted him in the end of last year. McCarthy's first effort failed 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 supporter of Republican politics working against him: former President Donald Trump.

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

Trump is hosting a tele-rally for McGuire Monday night, and he appeared in a 15-second television ad to boost McGuire. His support could sway some voters skeptical of the good in the deep red district, which stretches from suburban Richmond to the state's southern border.

A lot of people said, 'I don't know anything about you, never mentioned before, but Trump supports you, I have you,'” McGuire told NBC News.

Tuesday's race is Good's first time facing a traditional primary. In 2020, Good ousted then-Rep. Denver Riggleman, who also had Trump's support, at a drive-in 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 Friday at the Village Vibe concert in nearby Powhatan.

You never know where he is, Jaggard said. And that bothers me.

The anti-Good coalition

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

Good declared himself behind President Trump, adding: I'm sure the president will support me on June 19 after we win.

The delicate dynamic around Trump was on display at Good's event, when the congressman referenced someone who had promised to make him unelectable. That person was likely top Trump advisor Chris LaCivita, who told a local Virginia news outlet in January: Bob Good is not going to be eligible when we're 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 Republican colleagues.

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, who was kicked out of the Freedom Caucus last summer, has been a big positive critic. At least five other Republican lawmakers have donated to the McGuires campaign. A 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 the Goods Own Freedom Caucus, Rep. Warren Davidson, broke ranks Sunday to support McGuire, calling for reinforcements to help make America great again.

But just as members are taking action against Good, some of the Freedom Caucus' most vocal members have made visits to the district on their colleague's behalf.

Defending Main Street, a super PAC supporting more centrist Republicans, also took the rare step of targeting an incumbent president, strengthening McGuire in the race.

He would support Donald Trump and his initiatives to build the wall and control immigration, Sarah Chamberlain, president of the Republican Main Street Partnership, recently told NBC News. These are all things Bob Good didn't do.

Chamberlain said Goods' vote to oust McCarthy prompted the group to look at his record and they determined McGuire would be a better fit for the district. Chamberlain said she discussed McGuire's actions with him on January 6, 2021, noting that he did not enter the Capitol that day.

We certainly didn't blame him for that, she said.

Yes, I went there, McGuire said of attending Trumps Stop the Steal rally and the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. We felt like we had been cheated.

John McGuire, GOP candidate for Virginia's 5th Congressional District, in Bumpass, Virginia, on Saturday. Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

McGuire's openness to conspiracy theories was evident in other parts of the interview, including when he called the Covid-19 pandemic plandemic, touting a conspiracy theory that the pandemic, which originated in China and spread around the world, was a ploy to be able to change voting rules regarding drop boxes and mail-in voting in the United States. There is no evidence of this.

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

The McCarthy Factor

McCarthy allies covered the airwaves in Virginia districts ahead of Tuesday's vote. Outside groups linked to the former speaker spent $6.9 million on ads during the race, according to ad tracking firm AdImpact, while Good received support from outside groups linked to the House Club for Growth Action. Freedom Caucus and Republican Senator Rand Paul. from Kentucky.

McGuire said he and McCarthy discussed that primary battle, although McGuire told NBC News he didn'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 also connected several times by phone during this race.

Advice, like: Hey, am I doing the right thing? ” McGuire said, describing discussions with McCarthy. And he said: Keep charging. It's more of a pep talk. But never any strategy or anything. I think I should have asked him that, but I didn't.

Goods' allies framed the race as McCarthy and the Washington establishment trying to topple the party's far-right conservative wing, with some of his colleagues from the Goods Freedom Caucus joining him on the campaign trail Friday.

It's not just about crushing Bob Good as president. This is a move to crush the Freedom Caucus, Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Ariz., told the roughly 50 Virginians gathered. Lashing out at the former speaker, Biggs said the race is being supported by a very bitter and upset individual who wants to be relevant.

While that has brought money and attention to the race, it's unclear how much the vote to oust McCarthy will actually resonate with voters.

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

But McCarthy's ouster mattered to at least some voters on opposing sides of the primary.

A woman at the Powhatan concert, who declined to give her name, said McCarthy's vote factored into her decision to support McGuire.

The timing was terrible, she said, with a John McGuire sign: Trump approved lawn leaning against his lawn chair. And that just fed into the Democrats: Oh, these Republicans can't get their act together.

Karen Piscarz, a Goochland retiree who was also at Friday's concert, said it absolutely affected her decision to support Good.

I liked that he craned his neck while everyone was saying: Why are you doing that? And I think [House Speaker] Mike Johnson makes a big difference, she said.

It matters to people who pay attention, Dale Agnew, a Good supporter, said of the incumbents' vote against McCarthy. Not everyone pays attention to it.

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