Trump endorses challenger to Freedom Caucus chair Bob Good ahead of closely watched Virginia primary

Former President Donald Trump has endorsed the Republican opponent of a Virginia congressman who leads the hard-right House Freedom Caucus
FILE - Del. John McGuire -R, Glen Allen, attends the VCDL rally, Jan. 16, 2023 at Capitol Square in Richmond, Va. Del. McGuire is one of several Republican Virginia legislators speaking at the rally. Former President Donald Trump has endorsed the Republican opponent of a Virginia congressman who chairs a group of House conservatives called the House Freedom Caucus in what could be a defining moment in the GOP primary set for June 18. (AP Photo/John C. Clark, File)

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FILE - Del. John McGuire -R, Glen Allen, attends the VCDL rally, Jan. 16, 2023 at Capitol Square in Richmond, Va. Del. McGuire is one of several Republican Virginia legislators speaking at the rally. Former President Donald Trump has endorsed the Republican opponent of a Virginia congressman who chairs a group of House conservatives called the House Freedom Caucus in what could be a defining moment in the GOP primary set for June 18. (AP Photo/John C. Clark, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Former President Donald Trump has endorsed the Republican opponent of a Virginia congressman who leads the hard-right House Freedom Caucus in what could be a defining moment in the GOP primary set for June 18.

The endorsement of John McGuire, a state senator, provides a jolt of momentum for the challenger and could be difficult for the incumbent, two-term Rep. Bob Good, to overcome. The primary is one of the most closely watched in the nation as millions of dollars pour into the race from various Republican-aligned groups.

Trump said that McGuire, 55, “has my Complete and Total Endorsement! MAGA2024.” Meanwhile, he calls Good bad for Virginia and bad for the USA. In the endorsement, posted on Truth Social, Trump said Good was constantly attacking and fighting him until recently when he gave a “warm and ‘loving’ Endorsement - But really, it was too late. The damage has been done."

The two candidates have sought to show their allegiance to Trump in the solidly Republican district, but Good, 58, initially backed Ron DeSantis in the GOP presidential primary, before endorsing Trump. The former president did not forget and took revenge three weeks before primary day, saying of Good, “he turned his back on our incredible movement.”

Trump had been leaning toward McGuire but had not yet made a decision on endorsing when he and Good both showed up to accompany him to court in New York on May 16, according to a person close to Trump who asked to speak anonymously to share private deliberations.

Trump made his decision after weighing both Good’s perceived sins and McGuire’s efforts to go above and beyond for Trump while proving that he was a viable challenger.

Chief among Good's transgressions was his endorsement of DeSantis, which seemed particularly egregious to Trump and his allies because it came just days after Trump was indicted in the Manhattan hush money case. The timing made it a particularly public and critical display of disloyalty, the person said.

The hush money case was the first of four criminal cases brought against Trump last year.

McGuire has sought to underscore his loyalty to Trump throughout the campaign to mark a contrast between the two candidates, who have similar stances on many political issues.

“Thank you to President Donald J. Trump for endorsing my campaign for Congress!," McGuire said in a statement. “I’ve been with Trump since he came down the escalator and when I’m in Congress, I’ll back his agenda and put America First!”

Good was among the parade of GOP lawmakers and allies who have appeared with Trump at his New York City trial as a sign of support. Both he and McGuire accompanied Trump the same day. "We're here to have his back," Good said of the trip.

But McGuire said Trump was right about Good.

“Trump has recognized that I’m the 100% MAGA candidate in this race and I appreciate it,” McGuire said.

Good said in a statement that he was still confident of victory and the campaign had a strong ground game with more than 300 committed volunteers. He cited an array of lawmakers and Republican groups supporting his campaign.

“They all know I am the true conservative in this race who is committed to reversing the Biden agenda and putting America back on track to be great again as it was in President Trump's first term,” Good said.

Good's campaign website, even after Trump had announced he was backing McGuire, still included on Tuesday afternoon a large picture of Trump and Good under the headline, “Who’s supporting Bob.”

The website included Trump's praise of the congressman and noted that the comments were from the 2022 election.

"President Trump has not endorsed in this election cycle but Congressman Good is proud to have endorsed President Trump for Re-Election in 2024,” the website reads.

Trump has long chafed at people who appear to give the illusion of having received his coveted endorsement when he has not yet given it.

Good is a fiscal conservative who has pushed for deep spending cuts and was one of eight Republican lawmakers who voted with Democrats to oust then-speaker Kevin McCarthy. The fallout from that vote is also evident in the congressional race as groups sympathetic to the former speaker spend heavily to defeat Good while others have come to his defense.

About $7.5 million has been spent on campaign ads in the Virginia race as of Tuesday with more than $2 million in ad time reserved through June 18, according to the media tracking firm AdImpact. That's a large sum for a House race considering it is not considered a pickup opportunity for Democrats.

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Price reported from New York. Associated Press writer Chad Day contributed to this report.

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump speaks at the Libertarian National Convention at the Washington Hilton in Washington, Saturday, May 25, 2024. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

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The chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, Rep. Bob Good, R-Va., speaks during a news conference at near Manhattan criminal court Thursday, May 16, 2024, in New York. Former President Donald Trump is accused of falsifying business records to cover up a sex scandal during the 2016 presidential campaign. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

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The chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, Rep. Bob Good, R-Va., watches during a news conference near Manhattan criminal court Thursday, May 16, 2024, in New York. Former President Donald Trump is accused of falsifying business records to cover up a sex scandal during the 2016 presidential campaign. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

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Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump speaks at the Libertarian National Convention at the Washington Hilton in Washington, Saturday, May 25, 2024. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

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