Jewish Democrats Ready Push for Obama

Aim To Focus on Social Issues and Israel To Swing Tight Vote

Road to Charlotte: President Barack Obama campaigned in Ohio as Democrats gather to nominate him for reelection.
getty images
Road to Charlotte: President Barack Obama campaigned in Ohio as Democrats gather to nominate him for reelection.

By Nathan Guttman

Published September 04, 2012, issue of September 07, 2012.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Multi Page

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.

Volunteer holds Obama campaign sign in Hebrew.
nathan guttman
Volunteer holds Obama campaign sign in Hebrew.

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.

The real push will come right after the convention wraps up, when activists fan out to swing states with large Jewish populations. Simas offered a list of talking points which the campaign believes highlight Obama’s achievements in his first term: Healthcare reform, ending the war in Iraq and setting a timeline for withdrawal from Afghanistan, education, fair pay for women, environment, clean energy, immigration, LGBT rights, women’s health and support for the middle class.

Obama’s record on Israel, according to Ira Forman, national Jewish outreach director for the Obama campaign, should be the first issue raised in conversation with Jewish swing voters. But after mentioning Obama’s support for Israel’s security, surrogates and activists were urged to move on to domestic issues, where Democrats feel they have the edge when it comes to priorities of Jewish voters.

Helping out with the effort to counter Republican attacks regarding Obama and Israel is a new and somewhat lengthy video which praises the president’s support for Israel.

Democrats are also aware of the fact that their convention comes at a time when tensions between Obama and Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu are reaching a new high, with both sides taking opposite views regarding a possible Israeli pre-emptive attack against Iran. Republican candidate Mitt Romney alluded to these differences in his acceptance speech in which he accused Obama of “throwing Israel under the bus” only to be met by an angry vice president Joe Biden who described Romney as wishing to take America to war.

Wasserman Schultz, speaking to Jewish activists at the convention, echoed Biden’s sentiments, saying that while all options for dealing with Iran are on the table, America is a “war-weary nation” and should refrain from “bellicose” remarks and from “chest beating.”

In an uncharacteristically passionate address to Jewish activists, Alan Solow, former chair of the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish American Organizations and a close friend of Obama, urged them to fight hard for every vote. He spoke out against what many Jews refer to the “kishkes factor,” the Yiddish term for gut feeling, that elusive sentiment that still makes some Jewish voters suspicious about Obama, the nation’s first black president.

“I really resent the kishkes question,” Solow said. “It reflects the kind of double standard our community should be ashamed of.”


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Sara Kramer is not the first New Yorker to feel the alluring pull of the West Coast — but she might be the first heading there with Turkish Urfa pepper and za’atar in her suitcase.
  • About 1 in 40 American Jews will get pancreatic cancer (Ruth Bader Ginsberg is one of the few survivors).
  • At which grade level should classroom discussions include topics like the death of civilians kidnapping of young Israelis and sirens warning of incoming rockets?
  • Wanted: Met Council CEO.
  • “Look, on the one hand, I understand him,” says Rivka Ben-Pazi, a niece of Elchanan Hameiri, the boy that Henk Zanoli saved. “He had a family tragedy.” But on the other hand, she said, “I think he was wrong.” What do you think?
  • How about a side of Hitler with your spaghetti?
  • Why "Be fruitful and multiply" isn't as simple as it seems:
  • William Schabas may be the least of Israel's problems.
  • You've heard of the #IceBucketChallenge, but Forward publisher Sam Norich has something better: a #SoupBucketChallenge (complete with matzo balls!) Jon Stewart, Sarah Silverman & David Remnick, you have 24 hours!
  • Did Hamas just take credit for kidnapping the three Israeli teens?
  • "We know what it means to be in the headlines. We know what it feels like when the world sits idly by and watches the news from the luxury of their living room couches. We know the pain of silence. We know the agony of inaction."
  • When YA romance becomes "Hasidsploitation":
  • "I am wrapping up the summer with a beach vacation with my non-Jewish in-laws. They’re good people and real leftists who try to live the values they preach. This was a quality I admired, until the latest war in Gaza. Now they are adamant that American Jews need to take more responsibility for the deaths in Gaza. They are educated people who understand the political complexity, but I don’t think they get the emotional complexity of being an American Jew who is capable of criticizing Israel but still feels a deep connection to it. How can I get this across to them?"
  • “'I made a new friend,' my son told his grandfather later that day. 'I don’t know her name, but she was very nice. We met on the bus.' Welcome to Israel."
  • A Jewish female sword swallower. It's as cool as it sounds (and looks)!
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.