Charlotte, N.C. — Democrats are preparing to use their party’s nominating convention as a springboard to shore up Jewish support for President Barack Obama’s reelection effort, especially in crucial swing states like Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania.
Along with a string of Jewish speakers, activists at the convention are being urged to tout what they see as Obama’s strong support for Israel, but to also stress social issues on which they believe he has a strong edge over Republican Mitt Romney.
Even though polls show the Jewish vote firmly in Obama’s camp already, campaign officials believe their efforts to win over undecided Jews could be crucial in an election expected to be decided by a razor thin margin.
In a training session for Jewish activists Monday at the Charlotte convention center, campaign official David Simas presented figures showing Obama with only a slight lead in many battleground states.
The Jewish vote, Democrats now estimate, could make a difference between victory and defeat for the president. If support for Obama among Jewish voters drops from the estimated 74% he got in 2008 to 68%, as tracking polls now show, the change in key states could be enough to swing the election. If Obama loses 10% of Jewish votes he won in 2008, that would translate to 85,000 votes in Florida, 41,500 in Pennsylvania and 19,000 in Ohio. Nevada, Colorado and Virginia are also key swing states in which there are significant numbers of Jewish voters.
At the three-day convention itself, there will be plenty of Jewish speakers to hone the message. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the Florida congresswoman who heads the Democratic National Committee will officially open the convention on Tuesday. Wasserman Schultz will also be part of the warm up team for Obama’s speech on Thursday night. Other Jewish speakers during the convention in Charlotte will include Colorado congressman Jared Polis, Chicago mayor and former White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, New York Senator Charles Schumer, Congressman Steve Israel, who is also from New York, retiring congressman Barney Frank from Massachusetts, and Delaware Gov. Jack Markell.