So tonight I stand corrected. After New Hampshire I was sure that Mitt had this all wrapped up and that’s what I wrote here. But tonight I know I was wrong.
I didn’t take into account the Sheldon Adelson factor.
Five million dollars from Newt Gingrich’s buddy has given the former speaker yet another life in this contest. This wasn’t the only reason, of course. It helped him that Romney fumbled badly in handling questions about his wealth — dismissing as “not very much” his speaking fees that alone put him in the 1% and acting sketchy when questioned about his tax returns. It made him seem like a bad candidate for arguing that he was the real defender of all Americans in an eventual match up with Obama. At the same time, Newt used those debates to his advantage and did what he does best — condescend to everyone and at the same time declare himself persecuted. It’s straight out of the Nixon playbook, with an added dash of Newt’s fierceness.
Now this race is going to get interesting. And, more importantly, the Jews are back in play!
With the early date of the Florida primary this year it’s the first chance that a large population of Jews will have their say as a community about the Republican contest — though, it should be said, as everywhere in the country, it is a minority of Jews who register Republican to begin with. So here are a few questions that occur to me tonight…
Will Adelson keep giving money to Newt to allow his Super PAC to remain robust and keep fighting off what are sure to be renewed attacks from Romney? Remember that the casino magnate was said to be willing to give $20 million to his old friend. And will any of this money try to define Newt’s positions on Israel and Iran, a winner with some Florida Jews?
Will Jewish Republican voters — presumably in a different socioeconomic class than many South Carolina voters — reject Romney for the same visceral reasons? And will they care at all about these economic issues, or does it just pale next to Israel?
For that matter, will Gingrich’s shtick, his — how did he put it? — “grandiosity” affect them in the same way as it did the South Carolinians? There are those who hear in his constant attacks against the liberal media elite, reprised tonight, a coded anti-Semitism that plays well in the heartland and the south. They are also the crux of Newt’s response to any attacks. Will this turn off Florida Jews?
And the big question I have: How many Jews will vote in the primary? This will be the first real test of the premise that Jews have been turned off by Obama to such an extent that their anger will upend the traditional Jewish voting pattern. If this is true, we should see many more Florida Jews deciding to vote for one of the Republicans. We’ll see.
Gal Beckerman was a staff writer and then the Forward’s opinion editor until 2014. He was previously an assistant editor at the Columbia Journalism Review where he wrote essays and media criticism. His book reviews have appeared in The New York Times Book Review and Bookforum. His first book, “When They Come for Us, We’ll Be Gone: The Epic Struggle to Save Soviet Jewry,” won the 2010 National Jewish Book Award and the 2012 Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature, as well as being named a best book of the year by The New Yorker and The Washington Post. Follow Gal on Twitter at @galbeckerman