Omar and 'the squad' are building strength at home


MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — President Donald Trump can tell Rep. Ilhan Omar to "go back" to Somalia all he wants. All indications suggest she's not going anywhere.

Safely entrenched in liberal, urban districts, Omar and most of her fellow "squad" mates of progressive Democrats have been posting impressive fundraising numbers, so far scaring away serious primary challenges and quieting some critics on their home turf.

While their leftist policies and uncompromising tactics may roil Democratic leaders and draw Trump's fire, they've only bolstered their standing at home. The squad is poised to be a foil for Trump and a complication for Democratic leaders.

"We are going to continue to be a nightmare to this president because his policies are a nightmare to us," Omar, the first Somali American to serve in the U.S. House, told the crowd of supporters who gave her a hero's welcome at the airport Thursday as she returned to her Minneapolis district from Washington.

She spent the week as Trump's top target, after he tweeted Sunday that lawmakers should "go back" to their countries if they want to criticize the U.S. He was referring to Omar and her fellow congresswomen Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts – four freshmen women of color known as the "squad." All four are U.S. citizens, and only Omar was born outside the U.S. Her family fled violence in Somalia when she was a child.

"We are not deterred. We are not frightened," she said. "We are ready."

Omar hasn't always been so celebrated at home. Some Democrats were dismayed by remarks she made earlier this year that they considered anti-Semitic. Some believed she was vulnerable to a primary challenge from her district's sizable Jewish community. But none has emerged. The three little-known Republicans who have filed to run against her are given almost no chance of winning in the district that covers the heart of the city's large Somali community, as well as some first-ring suburbs. Trump drew only 18% of the vote in 2016.

Omar's campaign bank account is likely a deterrent for any Democrat. At least $1.2 million of the $2.4 million that Omar has raised since 2017 comes from outside her state, according to an analysis of fundraising data by The Associated Press.

Ocasio-Cortez has amassed $1.4 million, records show. At least $1.2 million of the money she has raised since launching her campaign comes from outside her home state, according to the AP's analysis. Their squad mates have more modest but still respectable bank balances.

The cash – particularly Omar and Ocasio-Cortez's hauls – sets them up to become kingmakers. They have started to share the wealth with like-minded candidates – potentially including progressives who will take on Democratic incumbents.

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