Democrats Have History in Jewish Vote Fight

GOP Has Financial Edge Heading Into November Election

Game On: Barack Obama, shown campaigning in Florida, has history on his side as he fights for the lion’s share of the Jewish vote in November.
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Game On: Barack Obama, shown campaigning in Florida, has history on his side as he fights for the lion’s share of the Jewish vote in November.

By Ron Kampeas (JTA)

Published September 11, 2012.
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Also featured in South Florida are billboards reading “Obama, Oy Vey!” and “Had enough?” Passers-by are directed to the “My Buyer’s Remorse” website.

Democratic outreach is considerably more modest. The National Jewish Democratic Council is canvassing the same areas with volunteers handing out postcards calling the Obama-Biden ticket “the choice of American Jews.”

The NJDC’s president, David Harris, said his group could not match the RJC outreach, but that it was not necessary to do so because of the Democrats’ traditional advantage among Jewish voters.

“We start from an inbuilt advantage, that since the New Deal the vast majority of American Jews have voted Democratic,” he said.

It’s a history that Republicans acknowledge, which is why the focus is on “microtargeting” the undecided Jews who, despite their relatively small percentage, could swing the vote in closely fought states.

“Our goal is to get to those leaners,” Brooks said two weeks ago in Tampa, Fla., at the Republican National Convention when he first rolled out plans for the outreach blitz. Ultimately, he predicted, “the undecideds will shift dramatically.”

It’s an argument Democrats are taking seriously. Days after Brooks announced his plans, Ira Forman, the top Jewish outreach official for the Obama campaign, gave a PowerPoint presentation at the convention center in Charlotte, N.C., the site of the Democratic National Convention, in which he outlined what a 10 percent swing in the Jewish vote could cost Democrats. Obama is believed to have earned between 74 and 78 percent of the Jewish vote in 2008; Gallup tracking polls had him at 68 percent in July.

Should Obama’s Jewish support fall to 65 percent on Election Day, in Florida he could conceivably lose 83,500 votes, according to Forman’s chart; in Pennsylvania, 41,500 votes; and in Ohio, 19,000 votes.

In its outreach literature, the RJC stresses Israel and the threat of a nuclear Iran. The leaflet distributed to suburban homes this week is mostly about the Middle East, with the economy relegated to less than a third of the content.

By contrast, the NJDC handout is split evenly between the Middle East and other issues: the economy, health care reform and social issues such as abortion and gay marriage.

Republicans recount well-known instances when Obama has differed with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, particularly on what terms negotiations with the Palestinians should resume, and they note that Iran continues apace in its suspected attempt to build a nuclear weapon. Democrats note enhanced security cooperation with Israel, Iran’s increased isolation under Obama and the administration’s efforts to block anti-Israel efforts at the United Nations.


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