Home News Mainstream G.O.P. Group to Target Bob Good As It Shifts Mission and Members

Mainstream G.O.P. Group to Target Bob Good As It Shifts Mission and Members

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Mainstream G.O.P. Group to Target Bob Good As It Shifts Mission and Members

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The Republican Main Street Partnership, a group that supports center-leaning House Republicans, plans to direct half a million dollars into a bid to defeat Representative Bob Good, a hard-right lawmaker from Virginia, making an unusual push to oust a sitting Republican member of Congress.

The move is notable not just because the group, through its campaign giving arm, is inserting itself into the kind of intramural fight against an incumbent that it typically avoids. It is also striking because the candidate it is backing — John J. McGuire, a former member of the Navy SEALs and an election denier who has pledged fealty to former President Donald J. Trump and promised to bring a “biblical worldview” to Congress — bears so little resemblance to the kind of moderate Republican the Main Street Partnership was founded to support.

The nonprofit, which operates out of a townhouse blocks from the Capitol, has for years raised and spent money to support vulnerable Republicans representing politically competitive districts, including centrist G.O.P. lawmakers with more moderate positions on social issues. Its Capitol Hill headquarters serve as something of a counterweight to the Conservative Partnership Institute, which operates nearby as the nerve center of the right.

But as the Republican Party has veered toward the extreme right, purging itself of what was once a sizable and influential bloc of centrists, the Main Street Partnership has also shed the “moderate” label and changed the nature of its mission. The group has recently expanded its membership to include far more conservatives, and has begun focusing less on centrism and bipartisanship and more on ridding Congress of G.O.P. rebels bent on disrupting legislative business and stoking party divides.

Its decision to wade into the G.O.P. primary in a solidly Republican district in Virginia shows how the organization intends to go on offense against the lawmakers who have played big roles in paralyzing the House and making it difficult for the Republican majority to govern — even if that means elevating a hard-right candidate it would never have supported in the past.

“We are now a group of 90 members who just want to get things done,” said Sarah Chamberlain, the president of the Main Street Partnership. She said the group identified Mr. Good as its first target of this election year because of his unique set of vulnerabilities.

The most obvious of those is that Mr. Good alienated Mr. Trump by making the politically fateful error of endorsing Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida in the early days of the Republican presidential primary.

“Bob Good won’t be electable when we get done with him,” Chris LaCivita, Mr. Trump’s campaign manager, told Cardinal News in January. The feud allows the Main Street Partnership to target Mr. Good without fear of starting a proxy war with the presumed Republican presidential nominee.

“We cannot have people like that in Congress; he doesn’t want to work together to get things done,” Ms. Chamberlain said of Mr. Good and his hard-right brethren in the House. “All they want to do is obstruct everything, even their own stuff.”

The move comes as Speaker Mike Johnson has been actively discouraging Republicans from targeting one another in the upcoming elections and trying — mostly without success — to get his rank and file to act as a more united team.

The Republican Main Street Partnership has tried to oust a sitting congressman just once before, in 2020, when it worked through its campaign arm to defeat former Representative Steve King of Iowa, who made himself a party pariah with a series of racist comments.

This year, the group’s campaign giving arm, Defending Main Street, is also spending $2.5 million in mostly open Republican primaries, in the hopes of bolstering candidates who its leaders believe would work to achieve conservative policy outcomes.

The group’s leaders hope the work can help save the Republican Party from future meltdowns of the kind it has suffered in the House during this Congress, including two long and messy races for speaker and Republicans routinely siding with Democrats to block their party’s own legislation from getting to the floor for votes.

But the decision to spend heavily against an incumbent also underscores just how divided congressional Republicans have become as the party has moved to the right.

Mr. Good, who in December was elected chairman of the hard-right House Freedom Caucus, was one of the eight Republicans who voted to remove Kevin McCarthy as speaker last fall. He has worked to freeze the House floor by blocking procedural votes as a protest against his own party’s leadership. He has helped to derail Republican-written spending bills and said that “most Americans won’t even miss” the government if there was a shutdown.

His challenger Mr. McGuire, a state senator in Virginia, also hails from the far right. He attended the “Stop the Steal” rally at the Ellipse on Jan. 6, 2021, hosted a screening of the documentary “2000 Mules” that promoted a debunked 2020 election fraud conspiracy theory and has attacked Mr. Good for having “abandoned” Mr. Trump.

Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, the right-wing Republican from Georgia, is a backer.

In explaining her group’s decision to support Mr. McGuire, Ms. Chamberlain made it clear that she is now more concerned with jettisoning rabble-rousers from Congress than with elevating centrist Republicans, once the organization’s main mission.

“Supporting Trump and where he falls on the conservative spectrum plays no factor in our decision-making,” Ms. Chamberlain said. “John McGuire is committed to working to deliver conservative solutions, not burning the House down.”

Mr. McGuire has said there is no time for “toxic infighting that cripples our party and country” and criticized Mr. Good’s vote to oust Mr. McCarthy.

Mr. Good’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment.

It is not yet clear whether the Main Street Partnership will target other Republican incumbents. Ms. Chamberlain said she had considered taking aim at Representative Lauren Boebert, the right-wing Republican who is running in a crowded primary to succeed Representative Ken Buck, who plans to leave Congress next week.

For now, she said she had decided that it would be too expensive to try to clear the field in a race where Ms. Boebert, who currently represents a more competitive district in western Colorado, has landed Mr. Trump’s endorsement and still has a campaign cash advantage over the other candidates.

But Ms. Chamberlain said she hoped her organization could provide a safe haven for Republicans who want to focus on governing at a time when the party is fractured and many lawmakers are tired of congressional dysfunction.

On Tuesday, Mr. Buck, a staunch conservative who was also one of the eight Republicans who voted to oust Mr. McCarthy, announced his decision to cut short his final term in Congress, telling reporters that “this place keeps going downhill and I don’t need to spend more time here.”

Others are sticking around with the hopes of a more functional future. New members of the Main Street Partnership include Representatives Max Miller of Ohio, a former official in the Trump administration; Kelly Armstrong of North Dakota; Buddy Carter of Georgia; and Andy Barr of Kentucky.

The organization is also conducting a purge of its own. It recently kicked out Representative Nancy Mace, Republican of South Carolina, who voted to oust Mr. McCarthy last year and has taken a hard-right turn toward Trumpism as she looks to preserve her own political future.

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