Paul Ryan Pick Changes Subject in Florida

Jewish Voters, Once Worried About Israel, Fret Over Medicare

Changing the Subject: Paul Ryan’s pick as the Republican vice presidential candidate means Jews in Florida are talking about, well, Paul Ryan, and his plans for Medicare and other entitlement programs. That could shake up the presidential race in the crucial battleground state.
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Changing the Subject: Paul Ryan’s pick as the Republican vice presidential candidate means Jews in Florida are talking about, well, Paul Ryan, and his plans for Medicare and other entitlement programs. That could shake up the presidential race in the crucial battleground state.

By Josh Nathan-Kazis

Published August 15, 2012, issue of August 24, 2012.
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The stakes couldn’t be higher across the country, but particularly in Florida, a crucial battleground state. Most analysts say Romney must win the state’s 29 electoral votes to have a realistic chance of unseating Obama.

Jews make up 3.4% of Florida’s population. That doesn’t sound like much, but it’s a greater proportion than in any other swing state. And given the state’s history of razor-thin elections (think Bush vs. Gore in 2000), it potentially could swing the election.

Republicans hope they can chip away at Democrats’ traditional huge margin among Jews this year. The GOP has spent months forcefully challenging Obama’s positions on Israel with South Florida Jews, to varying degrees of success. As the Forward [reported](http://forward.com/articles/150578/obama-muslim-fears-gone-but-israel-anxieties-remai/?p=all] in January, many Republicans on the ground in South Florida had harsh critiques of Obama’s Israel policy.

Ryan’s entry into the presidential ticket has handed the Democrats an opportunity to change the subject.

An early sign of their strategy surfaced just a little more than an hour after Ryan and Romney first appeared together on the campaign trail. At 10:43 a.m. on August 11, Lois Frankel, the Democratic nominee for Congress in Florida’s heavily Jewish 22nd Congressional District, issued a press release slamming Hasner, her Republican opponent, for backing Ryan’s Medicare plan.

Frankel and Hasner are competing over a newly drawn district in Broward and Palm Beach counties, the heart of Jewish South Florida. Both of the candidates are Jewish.

Frankel said in an interview with the Forward that she had always planned on attacking Hasner over his support for Ryan’s Medicare cuts. But she added that Romney’s pick of Ryan for the vice president slot was a political gift that could significantly boost the profile of the issue.

“For me, it was going to be a top-line issue because of the nature of the demographics in my district,” Frankel said of the Medicare issue. “Most people weren’t paying attention to what the Ryan plan is, but now people will know.”


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