CAMPAIGN CONFIDENTIAL

By E.J. Kessler

Published August 20, 2004, issue of August 20, 2004.

Polling Preference: Did President Bush peak among Jewish voters last December? That’s the inference of a new survey showing that despite Republican attempts to woo Jewish voters, Jews retain an overwhelming loyalty to the Democratic ticket. The poll, done for the National Jewish Democratic Council by the Democratic firm Greenberg Quinlan Rosner, found Senator John Kerry to be the choice of 75% of respondents, with 22% choosing Bush. The results, according to pollster Anna Greenberg, suggest that “Bush has weakened considerably since January,” when an American Jewish Committee poll showed him to be taking anywhere from 24% to 31% of the vote against the various Democrats then running in the primary. That would accord with the trend among the general electorate, where Bush’s poll ratings have taken a drubbing during the past few months because of the uneven economic recovery, the disclosures of intelligence failures and the prison scandal and military setbacks in Iraq.

The Greenberg poll margin was similar to Voter News Service exit polls for the 2000 race, which showed Vice President Gore garnering 81% of the Jewish vote as opposed to Bush’s 19%. The findings are similar to an analysis of aggregate polling data issued in May by the Gallup Organization, a non-partisan group, which found 68% of Jews supporting the Democratic Party.

Using an Internet-based questionnaire, Greenberg Quinlan Rosner surveyed 817 likely Jewish voters from July 26 to July 28, with a margin of error of +/- 3.5%.

As Republicans acknowledge, Jewish voters favor Democratic approaches on most domestic issues. But even on the issues of Israel and the war on terrorism, Jews favored Kerry’s approach 66% to 34%, according to the poll. “There’s been an assumption that Israel is central to Jewish voting decisions,” Greenberg said, “but it’s never been empirically demonstrated.” Greenberg found that the war on terrorism was the most important issue for the respondents, with the economy and jobs next. Israel, while important, ranked lower. “There’s a clear skepticism about his handling of the war on terror,” she said of Bush.

Republicans were quick to denounce the poll. The executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition, Matthew Brooks, said that it “manipulated the results for the maximum positive result for Kerry” by taking the survey during the Democratic National Convention. “It totally de-legitimates the results because of the window they chose to go into the field,” he said. “The whole thing just smells of politics.”

Others tried to cast doubt on the poll because it was done by a partisan pollster. “Everyone cooks polls,” said pro-Israel activist Morris Amitay. “I think Bush will do better. I’d be surprised if it wasn’t 10 points higher.”

Gallup had Bush viewed favorably by 39% of Jewish respondents — the lowest percentage of any religious group. But Greenberg had him viewed favorably by an even lower 20% of respondents, with 73% seeing him unfavorably. Could his popularity among Jews have fallen by half in recent months?

In the new poll, Kerry was rated favorably by 59%, with 27% unfavorable.The results had National Jewish Democratic Council Executive Director Ira Forman crowing that Bush and Karl Rove “got nothing” for all the time and money they’ve spent on cultivating the Jewish community. Bush-Cheney spokeswoman Sharon Castillo was unfazed. “The only poll that matters is the one taken November 2,” she said.

* * *

Nattering Nabobs of Naderism: Independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader is embroiled in a set-to with Anti-Defamation League national director Abraham Foxman. The two have been exchanging letters over remarks Nader made at a June press conference at the National Press Club: “The days when the chief Israeli puppeteer comes to the United States and meets with the puppet in the White House and then proceeds to Capitol Hill, where he meets with hundreds of other puppets, should be replaced.”

If Nader sounds like he’s been talking to right-wing commentator Patrick Buchanan, he has. In the June issue of Buchanan’s magazine, The American Conservative, Nader sat for an interview with the nativist nabob and made a pitch for a red-brown coalition, in part on the idea that, to use Nader’s words, “both parties concede their independent judgment to the pro-Israeli lobbies in this country.”

After the National Press Club remarks, Foxman wrote Nader asking him to reconsider his comments.

Nader said no dice. “There is far more freedom in the media, in town squares and among citizens, soldiers, elected representatives and academicians in Israel to debate and discuss the Israeli-Palestinian conflict than there is in the United States,” he wrote back to Foxman, according to The Washington Post.

In his latest letter to Nader, dated August 13, Foxman complains that Nader’s response “only furthers conspiracy theories about Jews and borders on bigotry.”

Nader, at last report, was unapologetic.

* * *

Outreach Extravaganza: Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum will lead a delegation of Republican bigwigs to visit Orthodox communities in Brooklyn, N.Y., during the Republican National Convention, seeking to get the flavor of the frum heartland. Santorum is the author, with his erstwhile pal Kerry, of pending religious freedom legislation…. The Bush-Cheney campaign also plans a convention outreach event at the Waldorf-Astoria, aimed at Orthodox Jews. “The White House sees that faith-based Jews are a natural constituency for them,” said a Republican activist.… Real estate maven Michael Landau plans a party for Rep. John Sweeney with House Majority Leader Tom DeLay…. Meanwhile, a Republican Jewish Coalition event at the Museum of Jewish Heritage with the not-for-profit Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations is raising eyebrows, because the Presidents Conference didn’t do the equivalent honors at the Dem convention by joining with Forman’s group. The president of the Union for Reform Judaism, Rabbi Eric Yoffie, echoing other irked liberal members of the conference, said the umbrella group should “avoid appearances of partisanship or favoritism.” Conference chairman James Tisch passed the ball on this one to executive vice-chairman Malcolm Hoenlein, who didn’t return several phone calls seeking comment. Brooks said the event was “nonpartisan.”

* * *

GOP Poster Girl: In more outreach news, the Republican convention is touting a claim that 5,000 delegates who will gather in New York next month are “the most diverse group of delegates in party history.” Among the noteworthy statistics: a 70% jump from 2000 in the number of minority delegates, according to the convention Web site. One of the faces the GOP is fore-fronting among a group of Web “snapshots” representing delegate diversity is Zara Kozlov, 23, a Jewish at-large alternate from Cherry Hill, N.J. The youngest member of the Garden State delegation, she’s a student at Yeshiva University’s Benjamin Cardozo School of Law, from which she expects to graduate in 2005. More information on Jewish delegates will be forthcoming, with numbers expected out later this week, according to a convention spokeswoman.



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.