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Due in large part to the political wiles of Ed Koch, Turner’s victory in the heavily Jewish outer-borough district was portrayed as a Jewish rejection of Obama’s Israel policy. Republican Dan Senor, who later joined the Romney campaign as a key foreign policy adviser, argued in The Wall Street Journal in September 2011 that the Turner win pointed to the possibility that Obama would suffer steep losses among Jews in November 2012.
A handful of Republican Jewish groups spent millions pushing Senor’s argument. Bill Kristol’s Emergency Committee for Israel produced advertisements and lengthy online mini-documents describing the “daylight” between Obama and the Israeli government. The Republican Jewish Coalition lined swing state highways with billboards reading “Obama, Oy Vey
Early in the cycle, there were signs that the tactic was working, at least among the wealthy Jewish donors. As the Forward reported in March, some of the ultra-wealthy Jews donating to the pro-Romney super PAC Restore Our Future had no history of giving to Republican causes. A few had even given thousands in individual donations to Obama in 2008. In the meantime, some of Obama’s highest-profile Jewish fundraisers from 2008 were not giving to the 2012 effort.
Democrats took the attacks seriously. The Obama campaign released its own mini-doc in January. The National Jewish Democratic Council released a slightly ham-fisted video in August of Israelis praising Obama. Even the Jewish Council for Education and Research, a super PAC known for raunchy pro-Obama YouTube videos, posted an ad in October in which a young, dreadlocked Jewish woman broke from a string of cheesy Yiddishisms to gaze into the camera and earnestly describe the relationship between the United States and Israel in a crooned couplet: “Our alliance/stronger than ever.”