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Bashing Israel Is Risky Political Business

Cheerleading for Hamas will cost you at the polls

Photo: Shutterstock_ Paul Froggatt

The conventional wisdom that candidates for public office will benefit at the polls this November by libeling Israel or by backing Hamas has been debunked.

Ballotpedia tracked ten primaries in both parties where America’s role in the Israel-Hamas war became a lightning rod for candidates running for the House of Representatives.

In those ten races, the United Democracy Project (UDP), a nonpartisan super PAC launched in 2021 by the pro-Israel AIPAC lobby, has raised more than $50 million to either support the vocal pro-Israel candidate or target those candidates who have bashed Israel or pressed for a Gaza ceasefire on terms unfavorable to Israel.

According to Ballotpedia’s scorecard, you can chalk up five wins in seven races for the UDP, with three more to be decided.

Two UDP-supported candidates — Maryland’s Sarah Elfreth, a Democrat, and Kentucky’s Thomas Massie, a Republican — won their primaries to advance to November’s general election. Meanwhile, three of the four candidates the UDP targeted for defeat, without openly supporting their opponents, were eliminated in their primaries or in a subsequent runoff.

Voters in Virginia and New York will decide two of the remaining three races this week and next.

By the time most of you read this column, we should know the results of the Republican primary in Virginia’s Fifth Congressional District, where the UDP spent a relatively modest $88,000 to oppose incumbent Bob Good, the House Freedom Caucus chair and one of 21 House Republicans who voted against the emergency $26 billion military aid package the US just provided to Israel. John McGuire, who won Donald Trump’s coveted endorsement, was challenging Good. At press time, McGuire was holding a shrinking but still solid ten-point lead over Good in a poll commissioned by the Virginia Faith and Freedom Coalition.

Next Tuesday, the UDP will see how it fared with the $9.3 million it spent in New York’s 16th Congressional District Democratic primary, where George Lattimer is trying to deny Rep. Jamaal Bowman a third term. Bowman has accused Israel of committing genocide in Gaza and refused to vote for a House resolution declaring support for Israel shortly after October 7, before Israel began fighting back.

The latest Emerson poll showed Lattimer with a 17-point lead over Bowman.

The last of the ten races is scheduled for August 6 in Missouri, where the UDP-supported Wesley Bell enjoys a double-digit lead over incumbent Rep. Cori Bush, a “card-carrying” member of the Squad who has accused Israel of an “ethnic cleansing” campaign in Gaza.

Polling in primaries can be notoriously inaccurate, and nobody sees these races as a single-issue referendum on the Israel-Hamas war. Some of the Israel bashers have become wildly unpopular in their districts for reasons unrelated to the Middle East.

Yet the results of these early races are pointing in the same direction. Is the Biden campaign paying heed?


Incumbents Beware

The Biden campaign can be excused for being preoccupied with next Thursday’s debate with Donald Trump in Atlanta.

After Biden’s strained and unsteady public appearance at last week’s Group of Seven (G7) summit in Italy, his supporters are in trepidation over how he will perform in a 90-minute debate, live and in living color, abiding by ground rules that ban written notes or props onstage and bar campaign staff from coaching their men during the two commercial breaks.

Technicians will mute the microphones of the candidate who is not speaking, which may also work to Trump’s benefit because he won’t be able to interrupt. Pundits leveled harsh criticism against Trump for his constant interruptions in both the 2016 debates against Hillary Clinton and the 2020 debates against Biden.

However, the lack of a studio audience for the debate will work to Trump’s detriment, as his raucous pro-MAGA supporters will be on the outside looking in — although considering how unpopular both candidates are, they might have faced more boos than cheers.

Pew Research surveyed Americans in late May and early June — before Trump’s felony convictions. Some 25% said they view both candidates unfavorably.

Americans aren’t alone.

Pew polled 40,566 people, by their count, in 34 countries during the first five months of 2024. Just 43% said they have confidence in Biden to do the “right thing” regarding world affairs while only 28% expressed confidence in Trump.

Foreigners also take a dim view of American democracy. Some 21% say America is a “good example” of democracy; 40% say it used to be a good example but hasn’t been in recent years, and 22% say it was never a good example.

The US shouldn’t feel so bad. Citizens of the world are not exactly enamored of the elected officials in their own lands.

Axios sized up the G7 meeting with the headline: “World Losers Gather at G7 Summit.” They cited a Morning Consult tracking poll showing that Giorgia Meloni, Italy’s right-wing prime minister, was the only one of the G7 leaders whose approval ratings topped 40%.

Biden finished a close second at 37%. Canada’s Justin Trudeau (30%), Germany’s Olaf Scholz and the UK’s Rishi Sunak (both with 25%), France’s Emmanuel Macron (21%), and Japan’s Fumio Kishida (13%) are hardly inspiring figures.

Sunak and Macron will face the wrath of their voters at the end of June and early July. Canadian and Japanese voters will decide the fate of their current leaders in late 2025.

Europe is still experiencing shock waves from early June’s parliamentary elections in the European Union, where far-right parties won almost 25% of the seats. CNN called this “a right-wing surge that upends national politics.”

We’ll see how the surge plays out in France and the UK, keeping in mind the overhyped “red wave” that never materialized in America’s 2022 midterms.

However, 2024 is a new year. Voters are sullen and fed up with incumbents. This is a developing trend in both the US and Europe. Even if voters have little confidence that their opponents will do better, they’re willing to give it a whirl rather than settle for more of the same.


(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 1016)

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