Bacon, already attacked by Trump, now under fire from Lincoln Project

Omaha-area’s 2nd Congressional District is Nebraska’s most competitive

By: - February 7, 2023 6:16 pm

U.S. Rep Don Bacon, R-Neb. (Ashley Murray/States Newsroom)

OMAHA — During Nebraska’s raucous 2022 GOP primary election, former President Donald Trump sought a Republican challenger to U.S. Rep. Don Bacon, R-Neb., who represents Nebraska’s most evenly divided congressional district.

Former President Donald Trump speaks at a rally for Nebraska gubernatorial candidate Charles Herbster in Greenwood, Nebraska on May 1, 2022. He criticized U.S. Rep. Don Bacon, R-Neb., during the rally. (Aaron Sanderford/Nebraska Examiner)

Now Bacon is being targeted by the Lincoln Project, an outside group that attacked Trump and his allies during the 2020 election cycle. The center-right group appeals to Republican and nonpartisan swing voters, who decide close races in the 2nd Congressional District. 

Lincoln Project co-founder Reed Galen told the Nebraska Examiner the group is targeting Bacon and GOP House members in 17 other swing districts that President Joe Biden won in 2020. The group plans to press them to resist what it sees as threats to democracy posed by Trump and his supporters.

The Lincoln Project, known for its pithy videos and Twitter tirades against Trump and his allies, said it hopes to move the 18 targeted House members away from populist Republicans, weaken them with persuadable voters and “ultimately make them unelectable.”

“If you want to still call yourself a Republican after all of the things that Trump has said and done … you have to take a stand,” said Galen, a former Bush administration official who helped manage the late Sen. John McCain’s presidential campaign. “Bacon has to take a stand.”

Galen said his organization would rather see the Omaha area elect a Democrat than Bacon, who was described Monday in a Washington Post analysis as “the Joe Manchin of the House GOP.” 

National reporters increasingly describe Bacon as a centrist, a label Bacon rejects. Bacon voted with the Republicans 89% of the time during Trump’s presidency. Bacon, in previous interviews, has described himself as more conservative than his district, including on issues such as abortion, but he has said he tries to reflect the will of his district when possible.

U.S. Rep. Don Bacon, R-Neb., and State Sen. Kathleen Kauth speak to a voter in west Omaha. (Aaron Sanderford/Nebraska Examiner)

He is part of the House Problem Solvers Caucus and is involved in House GOP negotiations over raising the debt ceiling. But NBC News reported this week that Bacon has signaled he would not support an increase in the debt limit without concessions on discretionary spending by the Biden administration. 

The Lincoln Project was displeased with Bacon backing House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, who they said is beholden to the “MAGA caucus” in Congress.

Based on what the group has done elsewhere, Bacon could be the target of social media attacks and videos about his previous support for Trump and votes that did not line up with his divided district. 

“It’s not about right versus left or Democrat versus Republican,” Galen said. “It’s about democracy versus authoritarianism. Where does Mr. Bacon stand?”

Bacon campaign spokeswoman Danielle Jensen said the Lincoln Project lost all credibility when it “delayed any investigations” into the sexual harassment claims of 21 men against one of the group’s co-founders, John Weaver, who no longer works with them.

She said the organization must have preferred Jim Jordan for House Speaker, describing the closer Trump ally as “the most likely alternative to McCarthy.” She questioned who stands to profit from the funds being raised and spent to attack House members such as Bacon.  

The group doesn’t know the district or “the last two years of hostility” Bacon faced from Trump, she said. Instead, Jensen said, it has become “a campaign arm” of the Democratic Party. 

Trump took time during a May 1 rally in Greenwood, Neb., a week before the primary, to bash Bacon after he voted for the $1.2 billion infrastructure bill. 

Trump, at that rally, called Bacon “a bad guy.” He stopped short of endorsing Bacon’s underfunded, little-known opponent, Steve Kuehl, but said, “I think Steve will do well. Good luck Steve, whoever the hell you are.” 

Bacon won the primary easily, then beat Democratic State Sen. Tony Vargas of Omaha by 2 percentage points in the general election.

Bacon hasn’t said whether he intends to run again in 2024. Cook Political Report recently rated Nebraska’s 2nd District 2024 race as “Lean Republican.”

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Aaron Sanderford
Aaron Sanderford

Political reporter Aaron Sanderford has tackled various news roles in his 20-plus year career. He has reported on politics, crime, courts, government and business for the Omaha World-Herald and Lincoln Journal-Star. He also worked as an assignment editor and editorial writer. He was an investigative reporter at KMTV.