Capitalists And Money

The Virginia GOP debate with an audience of one: Trump

The bruising primary for Virginia’s 5th Congressional District is finally coming to an end on Tuesday.

But one month before that, House Freedom Caucus Chair Rep. Bob Good (R-Va.) and his GOP rival John McGuire found themselves face-to-face in New York with the former president himself.

Both men had traveled to the Big Apple on May 16 to support Trump in his criminal trial. Once they were close to Trump, they used their access to try to curry favor with the presumptive presidential nominee — who at that point had yet to endorse in the primary.

Here’s how it went down, according to five people present in the room, including some who spoke on condition of anonymity: When Trump mentioned a debate with Joe Biden, Good seized an opportunity to needle McGuire for declining to debate him. Good told Trump that he knows the feeling of an opponent who would not debate.

“It kind of sucked all the air out of the room, because McGuire was on the other side of the table and it was just super-awkward,” recalled Rep. Eli Crane (R-Ariz.), a Freedom Caucus member who is backing Good.

Crane, who called McGuire “weak” for not debating, also remembered the Virginia state senator shooting back in front of Trump that Good would “rig it.” Good quickly asked how one would rig a debate.

McGuire then openly questioned why he should debate Good when his internal polling shows him up 14 points over the incumbent. Good shot back that his internal survey showed him up 25 points, according to two of the five people present in the room. Others in the room more generally recalled a back-and-forth about polling, including the two men talking over one another.

Trump cut through the lingering tension, according to two people in the room, where he spent most of his time complaining that his criminal trial was unfair and rigged.

Here’s where Trump telegraphed the McGuire endorsement he later offered. Trump ribbed Rep. Ralph Norman (R-S.C.) and Good, the two people in the room who initially endorsed his primary challengers in the 2024 presidential race.

As four people in the room recalled, Trump asked about Norman’s endorsement of Nikki Haley, South Carolina’s former governor. Some Republican lawmakers present responded: “Nikki who?” Norman said he acknowledged to Trump that she’d lost in the race.

Then Trump turned to Good, as confirmed by Crane and Norman, and asked how his endorsement of “Ron DeSanctimonious” (read: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis) was working out.

Crucially, Norman painted the entire exchange as more lighthearted than the Good-McGuire animosity might suggest.

“Everything was pretty quick. And it was really — Trump was laughing about it,” Norman said, adding: “The back and forth with Good really just wasn’t that much.”

Trump endorsed McGuire less than two weeks later. The Trump campaign did not immediately return a request for comment on the May 16 back-and-forth.