For months there has been a rift between Ms. Pelosi and the four lawmakers, and last week tensions grew when Ms. Pelosi pointedly said they had no following in Congress. The four women opposed a $4.6 billion aid package for the border, approved by Congress, because they said it supported Mr. Trump’s immigration policies.
The tone of the president’s remarks, however, is something they agree on.
“We’ll stay focused on our agenda and we won’t get caught slipping, because all of this is a distraction,” Ms. Ocasio-Cortez said.
Mr. Trump clearly sees a political advantage in his targeting of the congresswomen, betting that by focusing attention on them, he will be better able to paint all Democrats with a broad brush of socialism and radical policies.
“The Dems were trying to distance themselves from the four ‘progressives,’ but now they are forced to embrace them,” Mr. Trump gloated on Twitter on Monday evening. “That means they are endorsing Socialism, hate of Israel and the USA! Not good for the Democrats!”
Cornell Belcher, a Democratic pollster and strategist, said Mr. Trump’s latest remarks reflected a broader strategy to use the same kind of racial animus that helped propel his 2016 presidential bid to bolster his base for his 2020 re-election push.
“He’s crazy like a fox, and it only makes perfectly good sense for him to go back to what got him here in the first place, which is driving this racial angst in the electorate,” Mr. Belcher said.
There are risks for Democrats in the strategy, he added, if they accede to Mr. Trump’s wishes.
“To a certain extent, the electorate already gets that Donald Trump is racist and he says racist, offensive things, so of course, you have to condemn what he says as a matter of principle,” Mr. Belcher said. “But from a strategic standpoint, does it get you anything to fall into where he clearly wants the battle to be fought? It’s almost like he’s picking the battlefield for 2020.”