BUCKINGHAM, Va. - The late-summer sun was just beginning to cast shadows on the white pillars of the Buckingham County courthouse, near the base of the Blue Ridge Mountains, when House hopeful Bob Good stood before a crowd of supporters last week and promised to "not stand idly by" against the threat of urban rioters.
"We can't say it couldn't happen here," the Virginia Republican said. "It can happen here. But we won't let it happen here."
The talking point is one of several that Good, 55, a self-described "bright-red biblical conservative" has borrowed from the campaign of President Donald Trump as he vies to represent Virginia's sprawling 5th District and bring "Judeo-Christian values" to Washington.
He promises to help Trump complete his border wall and hold China accountable for the coronavirus pandemic. He has also painted his Democratic opponent, physician and lawyer Cameron Webb, as aligned with the "radical left" for his support of the Black Lives Matter movement. And in recent weeks, Good has campaigned on opposition to a state measure meant to protect transgender rights.
That rhetoric has found an appreciative audience among party stalwarts in the district, some of whom helped Good, a former athletics director at the evangelical Liberty University and onetime member of the Campbell County Board of Supervisors, oust the more libertarian-leaning freshman Republican Denver Riggleman at a June nominating convention.
But critics - including some Republicans - say Good started off with a weak base of support and has done little to reach out to moderates and independents who could cast deciding votes in November.
Virginia's 5th District, which stretches from the Washington exurbs to the North Carolina border, voted for Trump by 11 points in 2016. But Webb, 37, has a 5-to-1 fundraising advantage, and Democrats see him as a rising star. Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates the race Likely Republican.
"Nobody minds that he is conservative, it's that he is on the fringe of the conservative," said Matt Hall, who doesn't live in the district but writes an influential political blog on the right-leaning Bearing Drift website. "He is so far to the right that people are starting to get a little creeped out by it."
The intraparty strife is rare among Republicans so far in 2020, which has seen a series of primaries that bestowed the nomination to the candidate who displayed the strongest loyalty to the president.
But it provides a glimpse into internal debates starting to surface within the GOP in purpling states such as Virginia as Trump's declining polling numbers and Democratic House and Senate candidates' strong fundraising advantages have increased the number of races in play.