It’s not mutually exclusive that this could be beneficial for both Trump and the congresswomen. Trump, after all, is more concerned about winning reelection in 2020, while Omar and Tlaib seem more preoccupied with making the case against Israel’s treatment of Palestinians. By elevating the two of them, he could help them make their cause on a policy level and still help himself turn them into 2020 boogeywomen.
But even that strategy is suspect. A new YouGov poll shows the two congresswomen aren’t terribly unpopular. Omar’s image was 28 percent positive vs. 34 percent negative, while Tlaib’s was 26 percent positive vs. 30 percent negative. They were slightly more popular than White House counselor Kellyanne Conway (30/38). About half of independents don’t even know who they are. The benefit here seems to be in motivating Republicans, who hold sharply negative views of both women, but despite some high-profile rows, Trump doesn’t seem to have turned the congresswomen into pariahs with the broader electorate, by any means.
And electoral considerations aren’t the only ones at play here; the policy also matters to Trump and the GOP, who have made their alliance with Israel a centerpiece of their political agenda.