Tlaib and Omar face the voters

In nine days, Rep. Rashida Tlaib will defend the congressional seat she won in 2018. Her opponent is Brenda Jones, the Detroit City Council president whom Tlaib defeated by just 900 votes out of 90,000 cast in that year’s primary. One week later, Tlaib’s fellow “squad” member, Rep. Ilhan Omar, will try to stave off challenger Antone Melton-Meaux.

Tlaib faces a tough fight. As Dave Weigel of the Washington Post points out, Tlaib’s narrow 2018 victory came in a primary that featured a splintered field. Nearly two-thirds of voters supported one of Tlaib’s rivals. All of the candidates who ran behind Tlaib and Jones in 2018 have endorsed Jones this time around. One of them is Ian Conyers, a former state senator and grandnephew of former congressman John Conyers.

Is Tlaib more popular now than she was in 2016? Probably not. Ed Sarpolus, a veteran pollster and former adviser to Rep. Conyers, says that his polling (from May, I think) shows Tlaib’s popularity in the district has dropped 28 percent (he probably means 28 percentage points) since she took office.

Even so, a poll found Tlaib to be ahead of Jones, 43-34, with 23 percent undecided. Polling indicates that the black vote in Detroit is evenly divided between the two candidates, but that Tlaib has an edge in the suburbs, where Arab-American voters have considerable influence.

Sarpolus points out that Jones entered the race late and has lacked the funds needed to make a splash. One reason for the lack of funds is that the Jewish community apparently has not become involved in the race in spite of Tlaib’s rabidly anti-Israel stances.

Meanwhile, Ilhan Omar’s opponent faces no shortage of money. As Scott has noted, Antone Melton-Meaux, is flush. He has raised $3.7 million. This enabled him to run a steady stream of direct mail and TV ads against Omar. According to Weigel, these ads portray Omar as corrupt, emphasizing some of her fundraising scandals. One such scandal involves a misuse of funds for travel, which Omar paid a 2019 fine to settle. The other focuses on her funneling campaign money to her (latest) husband’s political consulting firm.

Where does this race stand? A poll from mid-July found Omar way ahead, 66-29. FiveThirtyEight puts Omar’s chances of winning at more than 99 percent.

So it looks like Omar will win despite being outspent and Tlaib may win because her opponent can’t match her spending.

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