Bob Good’s House antagonists take victory lap over Virginia primary

Republicans who campaigned against House Freedom Caucus Chair Bob Good (R-Va.) in his primary against state Sen. John McGuire are seeing the race as a victory, even as it remains too close to call.

With bitter anger about Good’s vote to yank away former Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s (R-Calif.) gavel in large part fueling the opposition to him, those who worked against Good say the race should serve as a warning against the kind of tactics, style and demeanor that contributed to discord in the House.

“He represented, for many of us, what was wrong with this Congress, the dysfunction. And he was sort of part of the soul of it — the seed of all this dysfunction,” said Rep. Don Bacon (R-Neb.), who endorsed McGuire.

“Is it conservative to shut down government? I don’t think it is,” Bacon said. “What does conservative mean? I think the way he went about it by trying to dethrone, you know, McCarthy — he did — and all the other shenanigans this year, I don’t think that’s conservative.”

To be sure, former President Trump’s endorsement of McGuire after Good initially endorsed Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis in the GOP presidential primary played a key role in the outcome. But Good’s detractors in the House point to the support — and money — McGuire got that stemmed from anger about McCarthy and Good’s political choices as having played a large part in the race.

Still, the race is not final.

McGuire led Good by 307 votes — or 0.4 percent — as of Wednesday afternoon, according to Decision Desk HQ, which reported 95 percent of the vote in. The election is at a standstill for now: Votes are not expected to be tallied Wednesday, Juneteenth, which Virginia observes, according to The Associated Press.

Even so, the race is likely headed for a recount: In the Old Dominion, candidates can request a recount if the margin is less than 1 percent.

Good, for his part, is keeping the faith, calling the race “too close to call,” warning that counting can stretch on for weeks and expressing a strong sense of optimism that the tally could flip in his direction.

“We believe we can still prevail,” he wrote on the social platform X.

McGuire, however, sees the race differently. The former Navy SEAL declared victory Tuesday night, telling the crowd at his victory party, “It is an honor to be your Republican nominee.”

“There are still a few votes left to count, but it’s clear that all paths end with a victory,” he echoed in a post on X early Wednesday morning.

A number of McGuire’s supporters followed with celebrations on social media, including Bacon and Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-Mont.). Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), who also supported McCarthy and was removed from the Freedom Caucus last year after clashes with members, called Good “toxic” as she congratulated McGuire in a post on X.

“I hope he’s right,” Bacon said of McGuire’s victory lap coming before the race was called. “Talking to other people in Virginia right now, they’re pretty confident.”

Sarah Chamberlain, the president and CEO of the Republican Main Street Partnership, said she hopes the uprising against Good gives other members pause before using the kind of tactics that he used. Defending Main Street, her group’s affiliated super PAC, spent $452,000 on ads supporting McGuire.

“He votes against Republican bills. He also votes Republican rules, so we don’t even get the bills to the floor,” Chamberlain said of Good, referring to procedural votes that are normally party-line measures but that Good and other Republicans have used to protest bills.

“It wasn’t as much about Kevin McCarthy as it was like, listen, can’t have Republican members voting with the Democrats to take down Republican initiatives,” Chamberlain said.

Good is only the second incumbent Republican that Defending Main Street has campaigned against in a primary, with former Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) being the first in 2020.

Good’s endorsements of challengers to other incumbent Republicans earlier in the year also inspired support for McGuire. Bacon endorsed McGuire in large part because Good backed his more hard-line conservative challenger, who fell short of unseating the incumbent by 24 percentage points.

“This is a little bit about ideology, I think, but more of it was how Bob Good treated people. He was sort of just obnoxiously rude,” Bacon said.

McGuire is not the Republican who would usually be lumped in with moderates like Bacon. He attended the “Stop the Steal” rally at the Capitol on Jan. 6 — but did not go into the Capitol — and has defended doing so, saying Tuesday on CNN that “Trump was robbed.”

But if GOP members who supported the Virginia state senator hope it will change how hard-line conservatives in the conference act, they will have to hope that their colleagues discount other major takeaways from the race.

Good supporters could argue that the results in the race — albeit still pending — reflect a strong showing and outperformance of expectations in the face of so much opposition.

A poll conducted June 2-4 and commissioned by the conservative Virginia Faith and Freedom Coalition found McGuire with a 10-point lead over Good — a far cry from the half-percentage point that separates them in the current vote tally. Twenty-nine percent of poll respondents were undecided.

Good was also outspent on the airwaves; the ad tracking firm AdImpact found $9 million was spent on ads in support of McGuire or opposed to the incumbent, compared to $5.6 million worth that was supportive of Good or opposed to McGuire.

Perhaps most important is the influence of Trump.

Rep. Tim Burchett (R-Tenn.), another one of the eight Republicans who had moved to oust McCarthy, said McGuire’s strong showing, and potential victory, was due to Trump’s backing more than anything else.

“It 100 percent has to do with Trump,” Burchett said. “The President is very, very strong, especially in the grassroots. That carries a lot of weight.”

Rep. Nancy Mace (R-S.C.), another Republican who voted to oust McCarthy, prevailed in her primary last week despite McCarthy and his allies supporting her opponent in the first stop on the former Speaker’s “revenge” primary tour against those who voted to remove him. Mace had the support, importantly, of Trump.

Burchett is not facing a primary challenger this year, though his antagonists tried to find one.

Still, Burchett said the support for Good from those who did not like his tactics and style are not dissuading him from voting how he wants to.

“I knew it could possibly cost me my job,” Burchett said of his vote to remove McCarthy, “but I still think it was the right decision to make at the time.”

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