Tampa — The supposed Republican “war on women” has put Jewish GOP women in the party in the crossfire: They are Republicans in a Jewish community that is largely Democratic, and social moderates in an increasingly conservative GOP.
Republican leaders gathered here for their national convention believe they have found a way to win over the hearts of Jewish women. Their solution? Talk about the economy or Israel or health care. Talk about everything except women’s rights.
“I don’t think we elect the president of the United States based on these social issues,” said Arlene Herson, an enthusiastic supporter of Mitt Romney from Boca Raton, Fla. “The economy is way more important than any social issue.”
Mary Anne Carter, a Republican activist from Knoxville, Tenn., called it “condescending” to focus on social issues when Jewish women are far more deeply affected by the state of the economy and by issues of war and peace.
Jewish women may be among the most problematic constituencies for the Romney campaign. Polls show that in the general population, the gender gap works in favor of Barack Obama, who has a 10% lead over Romney among women voters overall. And Jewish women, according to data collected throughout the years, are overwhelmingly aligned with Democrats. Analysis of the 2008 elections, prepared by nonpartisan The Solomon Project, found that more than 80% of Jewish women voted for Obama, a support level higher than that of Jewish men and of women in general.
Research conducted in the past decade in several communities was consistent with this finding, showing that at least three out of four Jewish women identified with the Democratic Party.
“To a big extent, it’s because of the social issues, because of women’s rights,” said Ira Sheskin, director of the Jewish Demography Project at the University of Miami.
Recent news events have made a challenging situation harder for the GOP.
Controversial remarks made by Missouri U.S. Senate candidate Todd Akin on rape and abortion, and Republican lawmakers’ opposition to including birth control funding in health insurance, have brought women’s rights front and center in this election cycle once again.