With Primaries Over, GOP Candidate Tones Down Pro-Trump Rhetoric On Campaign Site

Republican Jim Bognet used to have 11 mentions of Trump on his campaign site's bio page. Now there are just two.
Republican congressional candidate Jim Bognet has removed some of the pro-Donald Trump language on his campaign website in recent months.
Republican congressional candidate Jim Bognet has removed some of the pro-Donald Trump language on his campaign website in recent months.
Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

Meet Jim Bognet.

Bognet is a Republican running for Congress in Pennsylvania’s 8th Congressional District against Democratic Rep. Matt Cartwright. Bognet first ran for Congress two years ago, inspired to defend President Donald Trump against “Democrats’ witch hunt.” And one of the “greatest honors” of his life was working in the Trump administration at the U.S. Export-Import Bank.

That information could all once be found on his campaign website. But it’s no longer there.

Trump once formed a central part of Bognet’s biography, appearing 11 times on his “Meet Jim” page. (The word “Jim” appeared 14 times.) The page was like this until at least May 9, according to internet archives.

Bognet won his primary on May 17. It’s not clear whether the “Meet Jim” page was changed in the week before the primary or after, but the language has been scrubbed of many of the Trump mentions.

In the current version, Bognet still expresses his appreciation for serving in the Trump administration, but the word “Trump” now appears just two times. It’s been significantly toned down and made less partisan as Bognet moves into general election mode.

Bognet spokesman Joe Desilets insisted that there was no attempt to focus on removing Trump mentions from the site.

“You might also notice that Jim’s entire website was rebuilt and redesigned (I did it myself when I took over the campaign this summer),” he told HuffPost.

Indeed, the site does have a new design, but the “Meet Jim” page seems to be the main place where there were text-heavy changes.

Some differences between the two versions of the site:

On Serving In The Trump Administration

May: “I was blessed to work for President Trump’s administration creating manufacturing jobs to rebuild America’s industrial heartland. Some of the greatest honors of my life were working in the Trump administration, attending President Trump’s nomination acceptance speech at the White House in August 2020, and having President Trump’s endorsement in the 2020 election.”

Now: “I was honored to be appointed by President Trump to his administration where I worked to help American businesses create manufacturing jobs and rebuild America’s industrial heartland.”

On His 2020 Congressional Run

May: “In 2020, I ran for Congress to fight against the Democrats’ witch hunt to remove President Trump from office. In that election, we saw Democrats break every rule they could to rig that election. Today, election reform is crucial to ensure fair elections. I will fight to eliminate no-excuse mail-in voting, require strong voter-ID, and support auditing the vote in Pennsylvania. We The People deserve honest and fair elections without Democrat dirty tricks.”

Now: [Nothing about his 2020 campaign.]

On Trump’s Border Wall

May: “The liberals’ war against American energy has killed many great jobs. Unlike Democrats, I support fracking to enhance our economy in NEPA [northeast Pennsylvania]. I support finishing President Trump’s Border Wall and ending our border crisis. I also support Making China Pay for what they have done to us.”

Now: [Nothing about the border wall.]

On Trump’s ‘America First Policies’

May: “I am running for Congress to ensure Republicans take back the House so Nancy Pelosi, her lapdog Matt Cartwright, and AOC can not hurt the people of NEPA anymore. We need to pick up where President Trump left off to advance his America First policies.”

Now: “70% of Americans believe our country is on the wrong track right now because of the economic hardships brought about by the Biden-Cartwright agenda. If we are going to correct course as a nation then we need to end the wasteful spending on socialist agenda items, rebuild our domestic energy production (starting right here in Pennsylvania), and get government out of the way so you can pursue the American Dream for yourself and your family.”

On Backing Trump In 2016

May: “During the 2016 campaign, Jim attended the 2016 GOP Convention in Cleveland, Ohio to support President Trump. Jim is proud that Pennsylvania was the key state that put Donald J. Trump over the top to be elected President.”

Now: [Nothing about the 2016 convention.]

On His Work In The Trump Administration

May: “President Trump appointed Jim to a position in his administration to help rebuild our industrial heartland and to create jobs, support small businesses, and promote ‘Made in America’ products around the world.”

Now: “In 2017, Jim was appointed to a senior position in the Trump Administration in Washington, D.C., focused on expanding American manufacturing, creating jobs, and supporting small businesses.”

On His Goals For Congress

May: “We need to get back to President Trump’s America First policies and pass legislation that strengthens our economy and secures our border. Jim will represent Pennsylvania’s 8th District in Washington to focus on results ― for you, your family, and all Northeastern Pennsylvania.”

Now: “In Congress, Jim will fight to empower American families and small businesses, unleash American energy independence, and create good jobs at good wages.”

Bognet, of course, isn’t the first candidate to shift to a more moderate message from the primary to the general election campaign. Instead of just turning out a conservative base, Bognet will be trying to appeal to a broader swath of the electorate in a district that went for Cartwright by 4 percentage points in 2020.

According to a report from CNN, Rep. Tom Emmer (R-Minn.), the man in charge of getting Republicans elected to the House this fall as chair of the National Republican Congressional Committee, has urged GOP candidates to stay focused on issues and not Trump ― an approach that Bognet now appears to be following.

“I don’t say his name, ever. I just avoid saying his name generally,” a GOP candidate in a competitive race told CNN. “I talk about the policies of his that I like.”

An Emmer spokesperson told CNN that he has told his candidates to keep talking about the important issues “but emphasized that Trump is not on the ballot this fall and therefore has not been a focus during their strategy discussions.”

Desilets said they never received any guidance from the NRCC about whether to mention Trump.

Trump endorsed Bognet in the primary race in May.

Desilets said Bognet is proud of his support for Trump.

“Jim was mentioned as a featured speaker at President Trump’s rally on September 3rd in the district, he was endorsed by President Trump, President Trump won Jim’s district twice and is infinitely more popular than Joe Biden in the district,” he said. “The only real story here is why Matt Cartwright is terrified to be associated with Joe Biden when he votes with him 100% of the time.”

On the Democratic side, many candidates are also shying away from touting up their ties to the president, with Biden going “largely unnamed on Democratic campaign websites and Twitter accounts,” according to The Washington Post. Some of them are also reluctant to campaign with him. Cartwright was set to appear with Biden on his Pennsylvania trip last month, but it was canceled because of the president’s COVID diagnosis.

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