Bacon tells partisans he will back Trump if former president wins GOP nomination

Editor’s note: This report has been updated to note where the remainder of Nebraska’s congressional delegation stand on the presidential race.

OMAHA — U.S. Rep. Don Bacon, R-Neb., who has drawn two primary challengers since saying he would not support former President Donald Trump during the GOP presidential primary, told local Republicans on Tuesday that he will support whoever wins the GOP nomination against President Joe Biden, including Trump.

“I think the choice is simple,” Bacon told a meeting of the Douglas County Republican Party. “I’m going to protect the border. I’m going to vote pro-life. I’m going to vote for conservative Supreme Court justices. I want to vote for the president who’s going to protect our business community from this regulatory chaos. … So I commit to the nominee.”

Republican presidential candidate and former President Donald Trump speaks to guests during a rally at Clinton Middle School in Clinton, Iowa. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Bacon, a Sarpy County resident seeking a fifth term representing the Omaha-centered 2nd Congressional District, told the crowd that he supported Trump in 2016 and that he was the first member of Nebraska’s congressional delegation to endorse him in 2020.

He acknowledged some pushback he has faced for being critical at times about Trump. In 2021, for instance, Bacon criticized Trump’s inaction in the aftermath of the Jan. 6 storming of the Capitol by Trump supporters. Trump, during a 2022 visit to Nebraska, called Bacon “bad news.”

Importance of ‘truth’

Bacon explained his criticisms of Trump to more than 100 Republicans at the Omaha Marriott Regency by saying, “To me the most important thing is truth. I don’t believe in a post-truth society. I’m going to speak the truth, hopefully tactfully and honestly. I know there are people who disagree on this stuff.”

Bacon said during and after the meeting that he preferred U.S. Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., and former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley over Trump this year. But Scott dropped out in November, and Haley lost in New Hampshire’s primary on Tuesday, after finishing third in last week’s Iowa caucuses.

Haley’s team has said she is in the race until at least March. But if Haley does not win her home state of South Carolina on Feb. 3, where Trump leads in polling, the GOP primary is effectively over, political observers said, barring outside circumstances from Trump’s trials at the state and federal level.

Bacon acknowledged the challenge of representing a politically competitive district where Biden beat Trump in 2020. He has faced pressure from populist conservatives for not being loyal enough to Trump and from Democrats and independent voters for supporting Trump. 

After his speech, Bacon told the Examiner it should surprise no one that a Republican congressman would support a Republican presidential nominee. 

“I’m going to support the conservative position,” he said.

Democrats to use Trump against GOP

He also said, however, he expects having Trump as the nominee could cause congressional Republicans, including him, some “trouble.”

State Sen. Tony Vargas of Omaha speaks during legislative debate in Lincoln. (Zach Wendling/Nebraska News Service)

Meg Mandy, the campaign manager for Democratic State Sen. Tony Vargas of Omaha, who is running for the congressional seat, agreed. She said people in the 2nd District who want something different should choose Vargas. Vargas and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee have previously emphasized Bacon’s support for Trump.

“It’s no surprise that Don Bacon is supporting Donald Trump again, because he’s backed Trump every single time that Trump has been on the ballot,” Mandy said. “He can talk a big game about being a moderate, but at the end of the day he is taking the same votes and toeing the same party line as every other Republican in Congress.”

Potential Nebraska 2nd District House GOP candidate Dan Frei is shown speaking during a campaign appearance. (From the Dan Frei 2014 campaign Facebook page.)

Bacon also faces two challengers in the GOP primary, businessman Dan Frei and former gubernatorial candidate Michael Connely, who filed to run as a pauper. Frei nearly upset former Rep. Lee Terry in the 2014 2nd District GOP House primary, despite being significantly outraised and outspent. 

Frei told the Examiner on Tuesday that he is seeking Trump’s endorsement, like any Republican would.

“Whether you like President Trump or whether you don’t … you compare where we were at under his leadership compared to where we’re at right now. Is there a difference?” Frei asked. “I can tell you when I got to the grocery store, when I go to fill up my truck … I recognize the difference.”

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