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SUPER TUESDAY: In McCain’s Backyard, Jewish Paper Backs Barack

In Arizona, home state of Republican Senator John McCain, the local Jewish newspaper is urging its readership to back Barack Obama. Jewish News of Greater Phoenix, an independent family-owned newspaper founded in 1948, published an editorial February 1 endorsing the senator from Illinois.

“He has been a good friend to and strong advocate of the Jewish people and a stalwart supporter of Israel since his earliest days in the Illinois Legislature,” the editorial said. Still, it threw a bone to its hometown boy, saying that of the Republican field, McCain was “far and away the most attractive option.”

While it regularly endorses candidates in local elections, the weekly broadsheet, which has a circulation of 7,000, does not routinely take sides in presidential primaries. This year, said Tim Eckstein, a contributing editor who penned the editorial, it offered up a primary endorsement in large part because Arizona’s primary has far more gravity than in years past.

“This is the first year that Arizona has had a primary when the election wasn’t already decided,” Eckstein said. That, coupled with the fierce competition of this year’s race, inspired the editorial, he said. Eckstein, 38, is the son of the paper’s editor and publisher, Florence Eckstein.

Phoenix, with an active Jewish population of some 83,000, ranks No. 19 of America’s 24 largest Jewish communities, according to the 2006 American Jewish Year Book.

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