Ohio Jews Tune Out Presidential Election

Despite Recession, Little Sign of Shift to Republicans

Turn the Channel: Jewish voters in the swing state of Ohio are being bombarded by campaign ads for President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. Many just want it to end.
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Turn the Channel: Jewish voters in the swing state of Ohio are being bombarded by campaign ads for President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. Many just want it to end.

By Nathan Guttman

Published October 23, 2012, issue of October 26, 2012.
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In one of these rallies, in heavily Jewish Shaker Heights, anti-Obama protesters waving “Oy Vey Obama” banners could have noticed Avi Cover driving slowly by with his Hebrew Barack Obama sticker, still adorning his bumper since it was placed there before the 2008 elections. A self-described “traditional Democratic voter,” Cover, 39, intends to vote for Obama again, though he is not actively engaged in convincing other voters.

But for the many Jewish voters, interest in these elections does not even reach the level of plac ing bumper stickers on their cars.

Sitting around tables at the Warrensville Community

Apartments senior housing building in Cleveland Heights, elderly voters showed little concern over the upcoming elections. Senior citizens are a prime audience for Obama campaign ads warning them of cuts Republicans might make to Medicare.

For those younger than 55, Romney has promised to change Medicare into a defined benefit — or “voucher,” as the Democrats put it, that senior citizens would apply toward an approved menu of private plans with varying benefits, or spend on Medicare. Some studies predict that this will ultimately mean higher premiums or more out-of-pocket expenses for seniors as medical costs outpace voucher increases. The Romney campaign denies this and warns additionally that Medicare as it now exists will soon go broke.

Despite all this, the issue seems to have gained little traction. “They are both the same on Medicare,” Milton Steinbock said. “Politicians, they promise everything, but when they win they don’t do anything.” Steinbock added that he does not follow politics closely, a statement that triggered a round of nods from other seniors at the table.

Cleveland has seen its fair share of difficulties trying to fund senior care in years of economic uncertainty. Jim Samuels, a commercial real estate developer who has held lay leadership roles in the city’s Jewish community, has seen the difficulties up close. As a trustee of the Menorah Park Center for Senior Living in Beachwood, he experienced a federal funding drop of $2 million when the economy turned bad, forcing the nursing home to cut staff and appeal to donors in order to maintain services to the most vulnerable seniors who rely on Medicaid to fund their stay.

The proposed budget being pushed by Republicans in the House of Representatives and supported by Romney would slash Medicaid severely.

“When you hear what might happen, it’s frightening,” Samuels said. With social issues as his leading priority, Samuels made the Democrats his party of choice.

Back at the community apartment center, seniors said they enjoyed watching presidential debates. But most said also that they had already made up their minds. “As long as most of the things go the way you want, it’s okay,” Kurt Kohr said, “and if they don’t — well, you shrug your shoulders. What else can you do?”

Contact Nathan Guttman at guttman@forward.com


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