King of Prussia, Pa. — In the battle for Jewish votes this November, both parties acknowledge the other’s advantage: Republicans have the money and Democrats have the history.
The funding disparity was evident on Sunday and Monday when the Republican Jewish Coalition rolled out major voter outreach bids in three major Jewish population centers: the suburbs of Cleveland and Philadelphia, and in Broward and Palm Beach counties in South Florida.
The operations included expensive mechanisms unheard of in any Jewish outreach operation for years, if ever: Banks of volunteers phoning voters identified beforehand by researchers through “microtargeting,” a system that uses market research and other factors to narrow respondents to those likeliest to switch their vote.
Volunteers also distributed leaflets to homes in suburbs with high Jewish concentrations.
The effort attracted hundreds of RJC volunteers from across the country to the three target areas in states that both parties have identified as having enough undecided Jewish voters who could decide the election. Among the volunteers were dozens of students whose hotel stays over the Sabbath were paid for by the RJC.
“This effort – both in terms of numbers of participants and scope of the effort – was unprecedented and historic,” the RJC’s executive director, Matthew Brooks, told JTA in an email.
Democrats, slightly slackjawed, said they could never match the effort, which is part of an overall push that Brooks has priced at $6.5 million.
“We will be outspent,” acknowledged Robert Wexler, a former Florida congressman and one of the Obama campaign’s chief Jewish surrogates.
Democrats have said previously that they hope to raise $1 million to $2 million for their Jewish outreach efforts.
The RJC’s efforts in suburban Philadelphia were not without mishaps. Cellphones leased for the occasion did not work for hours on Sunday because the volunteers were housed in a lower-level hotel room that did not have reception. And some door-to-door canvassers were dropped off in areas such as Blue Bell that appeared to have few Jews and where houses were adorned with Christian symbols.
Striding along the broad paths leading to double doors in the wealthy neighborhood of Gladwyne, Carol Eberwein, a 70-year-old retiree sporting a white “RJC Victory Team” T-shirt, said she had not set foot in a synagogue for four years, infuriated with her fellow Jews for handing Obama a substantial majority.
“If these damned Jews vote for Obama” this year, she said, “I’m not likely to go back.”
The RJC’s outreach overall has won national attention. Its drive includes “My Buyer’s Remorse,” a TV ad campaign targeting swing states and featuring Jewish voters who supported Barack Obama in 2008 but are now voting against the president. The same theme appears on the leaflets that volunteers tucked into mailboxes on Sunday and Monday.
“We had high hopes for Barack Obama,” they say. “Now, we have only buyer’s remorse.”