Trump to turn ‘The Squad’ into face of Democrats

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY SETH MCLAUGH­LIN

Sen. Bernard Sanders says Pres­i­dent Trump may be crazy, but he’s not stupid when it comes to craft­ing a mes­sage and stick­ing to a strat­egy that could boost his re­elec­tion chances next year.

That the­ory could help ex­plain why Mr. Trump is go­ing af­ter the four mi­nor­ity con­gress­women known as “The Squad,” who have come to em­body a lib­eral brand of pol­i­tics that hurt their party’s abil­ity to woo vot­ers in swing dis­tricts next year.

“He wants to make ‘The Squad’ the face of the Demo­cratic Party as a place­holder un­til they know who the nom­i­nee is,” said Ford O’Con­nell, a Repub­li­can strate­gist who com­mu­ni­cates reg­u­larly with the White House.

“He wants to keep it on celebrity versus celebrity, and ide­ol­ogy versus ide­ol­ogy, rather than solutions be­cause he wants to tell you their ide­ol­ogy is go­ing to creep into the pol­icy solutions that the even­tual 2020 Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee puts for­ward,” Mr. O’Con­nell said.

That could prove to be a smart move for Mr. Trump, whose approval rat­ing has been un­der­wa­ter.

Polls sug­gest the pres­i­dent could be on bet­ter foot­ing than the lib­eral four­some who have be­come the cen­ter of at­ten­tion in Wash­ing­ton: Reps. Alexan­dria Oca­sioCortez of New York, Il­han Omar of Min­nesota, Rashida Tlaib of Michi­gan and Ayanna Press­ley of Mas­sachusetts.

The latest Real Clear Pol­i­tics av­er­age of polls shows 44% of vot­ers ap­prove of the job Mr. Trump is do­ing and 52% dis­ap­prove.

Top Democrats, mean­while, leaked a poll two weeks ago that showed Ms. Oca­sio-Cortez is well known — but not well liked — among likely gen­eral elec­tion vot­ers who are white and have two years or less of col­lege ed­u­ca­tion.

Among the 74% of vot­ers who rec­og­nized her, just 22% had a fa­vor­able view.

More than half of the re­spon­dents knew Ms. Omar, but only 9% had a fa­vor­able view of her. Most vot­ers also said they dis­ap­proved of so­cial­ism.

It was more of the same in a March poll from Quin­nip­iac Univer­sity that found 36% of vot­ers had a neg­a­tive view of Ms. Oca­sio-Cortez and 23% held her in a pos­i­tive light. Al­most 40% did not have an opin­ion.

The sur­vey also showed that 33% said Ms. Oca­sio-Cortez has been good for the Demo­cratic Party and 36% said she has been bad for the party.

Tim Mal­loy, as­sis­tant di­rec­tor of the Quin­nip­iac Univer­sity Poll, said at the time that “all is def­i­nitely not A-OK for AOC.”

“Most vot­ers ei­ther don’t like the fire­brand fresh­man con­gress­woman or don’t know who she is,” Mr. Mal­loy said.

Mr. O’Con­nell said Mr. Trump has been itch­ing for the chance to tie Democrats to the group. The op­por­tu­nity ap­peared when Ms. Oca­sio-Cortez ac­cused House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of sin­gling out mi­nor­ity mem­bers of the Demo­cratic cau­cus.

Mr. Trump pounced. He said that when­ever lib­eral Democrats are con­fronted they “call their ad­ver­saries, in­clud­ing Nancy Pelosi, ‘RACIST’” and that the four law­mak­ers don’t like the United States and should re­turn to their home coun­tries.

Democrats ral­lied be­hind the women and de­manded that Mr. Trump apol­o­gize for his “racist” and “xeno­pho­bic” re­marks. They noted that Ms. Omar, a So­mali refugee, was the only one born out­side of the United States.

Mr. Trump, mean­while, painted an en­tirely dif­fer­ent pic­ture.

“The Dems were try­ing to dis­tance them­selves from the four ‘pro­gres­sives,’ but now they are forced to em­brace them,” he tweeted. “That means they are en­dors­ing So­cial­ism, hate of Is­rael and the USA! Not good for the Democrats!”

He said the four lib­er­als re­ceived a “free pass and a big em­brace from the Demo­crat Party” and that “Democrats are afraid to take them on. Sad!”

“Omar is polling at 8%, Cortez at 21%,” Mr. Trump said. “Nancy Pelosi tried to push them away, but now they are for­ever wed­ded to the Demo­crat Party. See you in 2020!”

Amy Wal­ter, of the non­par­ti­san Cook Po­lit­i­cal Re­port, said the fight with “The Squad” “is ex­actly where Trump wants 2020 to be fought.”

“The more me­dia/Dems en­gage him, the bet­ter for him,” Ms. Wal­ter said in a Twit­ter post. “All this fight does is re­po­lar­ize the par­ti­sans and leaves the up­for-grabs vot­ers (who want to hear about bread-but­ter is­sues) tuned out.”

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