By E.J. Kessler

Published March 05, 2004, issue of March 05, 2004.
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King Kerry: Jewish voters in the March 2 Super Tuesday primary states cast their ballots for Massachusetts Senator John Kerry in higher percentages than did voters of other religions, according to exit polling data.

Their vote, which mirrors earlier primary results, suggests that Jewish Democrats — a high-turnout, activist group that is concentrated in some battleground states — are among the senator’s most enthusiastic supporters and will be leading the charge for him in November.

“What it says to me is that it was a bad day for President Bush and both his Jewish backers,” said a Democratic strategist, Steve Rabinowitz. “Jewish Democrats are very quickly coalescing behind John Kerry, and it’s only March.”

In New York, 72% of Jewish voters picked Kerry, while 58% of Protestant voters and 64% of Catholic voters did. The Jewish vote was a 17% share of the New York primary, which Kerry won with 61% of the ballots cast.

In Maryland, which Kerry won with 59% of the vote overall and in which Jews constituted 9% of the electorate, Jews gave Kerry 64% of their vote, Catholics 59% and Protestants 60%.

In Massachusetts, Kerry’s home state, Jews gave Kerry 78% of their vote, more than his fellow Catholics, who gave him 74%, and Protestants, who gave him 68%. He won the state with 72% of the vote. Jews were 4% of the electorate in the Bay State.

The Jewish sample was too small in the seven other states voting to provide meaningful statistics, but the pattern of Jewish hyper-voting for Kerry has been seen elsewhere, from Delaware to Michigan.

* * *

Chairman’s Chat: Bush’s campaign chairman, Marc Racicot, is working the Jewish community of South Florida, and he sure wants the rest of the country to know about it.

On Sunday morning, he met with 62 members of the campaign’s “Jewish leadership team” at a Jewish community center in Boca Raton, calling the Forward afterward to tell us about it. He was in Broward County over the weekend for Republican events.

Racicot couldn’t say how much money the campaign has collected from Jewish Floridians — such data isn’t tracked, he said — but suffice it to say the amount is substantial. Because Bush won Florida by only 537 votes in 2000, he’s eyeing Florida’s rich trove of Jewish voters — a heavily Democratic group that makes up 8% of the state’s electorate.

The campaign’s efforts may be paying off. A poll taken last week for the Florida Sun-Sentinel and the Florida Times Union showed Bush leading Kerry by 47% to 42% in Florida. In recent national polls, Kerry has been leading.

Racicot, a former Republican National Committee chairman, acknowledged that Jews have been more generous to the president’s re-election bid than they have to the Republican Party, but he said that he would try to win them over to the party by stressing the president’s “leadership and steady hand” and policies on such issues as Israel, Medicare reform and low taxes.

Racicot was quick to turn questions about Bush’s political weaknesses back on the Democratic front-runner.

Asked how the campaign would counter perceptions that Bush was taking too passive a stance with regard to American intelligence failures, Racicot asked, “Is the president concerned that we’re always on the cutting edge in terms of our commitment of resources and personnel to intelligence? He says it’s absolutely critical. You can’t say the same for Senator Kerry. He voted after the first World Trade Center bombing to cut intelligence by $1.5 billion…. He has set about to decimate our intelligence budget.”

Racicot said he agreed with the other Bush strategists who were quoted in the press this weekend saying that they expected Bush to trail or be even with Kerry in the polls through the summer.

“There’s been millions and millions of dollars spent attacking [Bush],” Racicot said, adding that “John Kerry alone has spent $5 million with 15 different ads” slamming the president. “We have not been there responding to those attacks. He’s gotten a bit of a pass.”

Racicot also voiced concern about Democratic 527 soft-money groups, such as those funded by billionaire financier George Soros, which have vowed to raise millions — according to Racicot, six or seven of such groups have pledged to raise $500 million in total — to defeat the president. “My suspicion is it would be possible to be outspent by those groups,” he said.

Several months ago, Racicot sent out an appeal for funds to counter Soros’s efforts. The chairman said he did not know how much money that appeal had raised, but the campaign would continue that line of attack.

Kerry spokesman David Wade responded to Racicot: “We welcome a debate with George Bush on intelligence in the war on terror. From faulty intelligence in Iraq to stonewalling the 9/11 commission’s search for answers on the greatest intelligence failure since Pearl Harbor, this administration has failed to make America as safe and secure as we deserve to be. Marc Racicot can’t run away fast enough from the administration’s record, but the facts are inescapable. John Kerry will prove in this campaign as he has throughout his career that he can do a better job of making us safe and waging a more effective war on terror.”

* * *

Loose Perle: Pentagon adviser Richard Perle — the neoconservative strategist who resigned from the Defense Policy Board last week so as to spare the administration any connection with his controversial views, “especially… during a presidential campaign” — insists his departure was entirely voluntary.

Asked last week by the Forward if anyone in the administration had suggested he leave the board, Perle bristled and said, “No. Certainly not.”

A noted hawk on Iraq, Perle told an audience assembled to hear him speak at the offices of the Manhattan-based law firm Milberg Weiss Bershad Hynes & Lerach LLP that he had resigned in order to be able to speak more freely about international affairs without “inflicting” his views on the administration.

“My ideas are in line with the president but not necessarily all those within the administration,” he said.

In his resignation letter to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Perle wrote that he quit because he did not want his controversial views “to be attributed to you or the president at any time, and especially not during a presidential campaign.”

At his lecture Thursday, Perle said Kerry has been expressing many views on foreign policy that are “silly” and “naive” in order to appeal to the Democrats’ liberal base. Perle said, however, that he expected Kerry would move to the center when he’s confronted with the “good sense” of the general electorate.

“It’s more likely Kerry will become more realistic than President Bush will become less realistic,” he said.

* * *

Kerry Comment: Kerry, whose surrogates have been doing damage control for Kerry’s suggestion that he would send former president Jimmy Carter or former secretary of state James Baker as envoys to the Middle East, took back the remark himself this week.

Democratic strategist Adena Berkowitz, who was among an estimated 60 Jewish communal types who met with Kerry on Sunday in New York, said Kerry rescinded the names in a comment to her.

“I approached it in a humorous way,” she said of posing the question to Kerry. “I said, ‘I hope you won’t send Mel Gibson [as envoy].’ He laughed and said, ‘I won’t send Jimmy Carter or James Baker.’”

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