Next Squad Member to Face Primary Is Already Behind in Poll

Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty
Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty

On the heels of the Tuesday defeat of the New York Democrat Jamaal Bowman, another prominent member of the progressive “Squad” in the U.S. House, Rep. Cori Bush (D-MO), had worrying news of her own: a poll showing her behind in her primary contest.

First reported by Politico, the poll showed Bush at 42 percent support, one point behind challenger Wesley Bell, the St. Louis County prosecuting attorney.

That was within the margin of error but there was another striking finding: Bell led by one point after trailing by 16 in the previous such survey, from January.

The pollster, The Mellman Group, said: “Bush is still seen favorably, but assessments of her and her performance are moving in a negative direction, while Bell’s image is improving, leaving him with an underlying image advantage.

“With some six weeks to go and 11% [of voters surveyed] still undecided, this race can go either way, but Bell has achieved a slight advantage.”

In New York, Bowman’s race went one way, firmly: The congressman was soundly beaten by George Latimer, the Westchester County executive.

Latimer cast his victory as one for the center over the left.

Bowman has faced challenges on multiple issues, prominently including his misdemeanor guilty plea (and House censure) for pulling a fire alarm in a congressional office building.

Nonetheless, the New York race was heavily influenced by Democratic splits over Israel and its war with Hamas, the issue emerging as a particular problem for Bowman given his policy positions, conspiracy-tinged remarks, and other embarrassments.

Similar splits affect Bush’s race, in Missouri.

Politico noted the group that commissioned the new poll: Democratic Majority for Israel (DMI), of which Mark Mellman, CEO of the Mellman Group, is president.

But the site also noted that Mellman’s polling in the Bowman-Latimer race proved accurate, giving Latimer a 17-point lead in April, the margin he went on to enjoy on election night.

On Wednesday, Bush issued a statement about Bowman’s defeat.

She said: “AIPAC and their allies—backed by far-right Donald Trump mega donors—poured a tidal wave of cash into this primary race showing us just how desperate these billionaire extremists are in their attempts to buy our democracy, promote their own gain, and silence the voices of progress and justice. There should be no question about the need to get Big Money out of politics.”

Representatives for Bush did not respond to a request for comment about the Mellman poll in her own race.

But in her statement, Bush continued: “These same extremists are coming to St Louis. They are bankrolling a faux-progressive, former Republican campaign operative to buy our deep blue Democratic seat.”

That was a reference to Bell’s 2006 stint as campaign manager to a conservative Republican in the same Missouri district.

As he runs for office, Bell has said he wants to focus on issues closely related to the St. Louis constituency.

Regarding Israel, his website says “the only democracy and strongest American ally in the Middle East… was attacked by terrorists on October 7. I believe Israel has the right to defend itself and go after those who perpetrated those attacks. In Congress, I’ll fight to make sure the United States remains Israel’s strongest ally.”

Bush supporters aren’t buying. One, Hannah Rosenthal of Progressive Jews of St. Louis, told the Times: “I don’t see Wesley Bell as a progressive. His allegiance with AIPAC supporters is a prime example.”

AIPAC spent at least $14.5 million on Bowman’s race, much of it after the Mellman poll showed Latimer with a commanding lead.

On Wednesday, an AIPAC spokesperson, Marshall Wittmann, told Axios: “Pro-Israel activists are proud to engage in the democratic process and help elect candidates who stand with Israel as it battles Iranian terrorist proxies.”

In Missouri, Election Day for Bush and Bell is Aug. 6, six weeks away.

Bush seems sure to face continued criticism over her pro-Palestinian positions as well as issues including a House ethics investigation over the alleged misuse of campaign funds.

On Wednesday, Mellman Strategies said: “With 60 percent favorable toward Bush, and 31 percent unfavorable, Bush is not unpopular.

“But Bell’s favorables are four points higher than Bush’s and his unfavorables are nine points lower… This primary race is essentially tied but clearly moving in Wesley Bell’s direction.”

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