Trump delivers blow to former Illinois ally in competitive House GOP primary

Former President Donald Trump once again turned the tables in a key Republican primary race, this time in Illinois, when he endorsed Rep. Mike Bost (R-IL) over devoted supporter Darren Bailey.

Trump endorsed Bost for reelection on Tuesday, dealing a major blow to Bailey as he seeks a national comeback following his failed gubernatorial campaign against Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D-IL) in the 2022 midterm elections. Bailey is challenging Bost in Illinois’s 12th Congressional District, an overwhelmingly Republican rural district that Bost has represented since 2015.

“Congressman Mike Bost is doing a fantastic job representing the Great People of Illinois’ 12th Congressional District,” Trump posted on Truth Social. “While I like and respect Darren Bailey, and was proud to campaign for him in 2022, Mike Bost was one of the first House Committee Chairmen to endorse my Campaign, and Mike was a stalwart supporter of our America First agenda during my record-setting Administration.”

Both men sought endorsement from the former president ahead of the March 19 primary, but the support was most critical to Bailey’s insurgent campaign as he attempts to unseat a longtime incumbent. The endorsement snub also comes after Bailey repeatedly visited Mar-a-Lago, according to the Chicago Tribune, and campaigned on his loyalty to Trump.

“Nothing changes,” Bailey said in a statement about the endorsement snub. “I stand with President Trump. We expected the swamp to make deals to protect their loyalist. We are leading in this race, and we will fire my amnesty-loving opponent, secure the border, fight the swamp, and win for the people.”

Bailey’s connection to Trump helped sink his gubernatorial bid in 2022, joining the trend of right-wing candidates endorsed by the former president who defeated centrist primary opponents but went on to lose to Democrats in the general election. Democrats saw Bailey as the weakest candidate to run against Pritzker, funneling millions to hit Bailey’s centrist primary opponent so they could have a better chance of winning.

Despite Bailey trying to run a platform to the right of Bost, a loss of Trump’s endorsement shows he may need to switch strategies if he hopes to unseat the incumbent.

Bost and Bailey are also both running in the primary to be named delegates to the Republican National Convention in July. The former president likely remains a strong political influence in Bost’s district, where 71% of the people chose Trump over Joe Biden in 2020.

“I am honored and humbled to announce that President Donald J. Trump has just endorsed my 2024 reelection campaign!” Bost said in a post on X.

The Illinois primary is considered one of the tightest of the GOP’s 2024 contests. Bost likely appealed to Trump for vocally opposing Biden’s 2020 win. He gained support from other Trump allies, such as Reps. Jim Jordan (R-OH) and Ronny Jackson (R-TX), as well as the National Republican Congressional Committee. Jackson called Bost a “true patriot” who will fight for Trump’s “America First” agenda.

Bost is vastly outraising Bailey in the primary, starting the year off with $1.4 million cash on hand compared to Bailey’s $117,383. The congressman is airing several ads in the district as well, per the Chicago Tribune.

Bailey has the endorsements of several right-wing members of the House Freedom Caucus, such as Reps. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) and Mary Miller (R-IL). Gaetz headlined a rally with Bailey in Herrin, Illinois, on Friday.

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Gaetz’s decision to endorse Bailey is a personal hit to Bost, who famously screamed at the Florida congressman when he was speaking on the House floor in January 2023 as he and other hard-line conservatives were withholding support for Kevin McCarthy’s speakership. Bost also reportedly lunged at Gaetz during a closed-door hearing in October following the ousting of McCarthy by Gaetz and seven other GOP members.

McCarthy reportedly criticized Bailey at an Illinois fundraiser in December 2023 for challenging Bost, blaming him for Republicans losing four congressional seats last year.

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