With President Barack Obama’s reelection only a few days in the rear view mirror, the topic of the Jewish role in American politics is still brewing — and we learned some tantalizing details about Mitt Romney’s summer trip to Israel.
Democratic and Republican operatives sparred over the importance of the Jewish vote in the just-completed election at the only session devoted to discussing the results at the Jewish Federations of North America’s General Assembly.
Tevi Troy, a former George W. Bush adviser who consulted the Romney campaign on Jewish issues, said the big headline coming out of the election had nothing to do with Jews.
Insteaed, it concerned the fast-growing Latino vote, which went strongly for Obama, prompting much hand-wringing about the future of the GOP.
“People are going to wonder going forward,” Troy said, “how much the Jewish vote really matters.”
Democratic pollster Mark Mellman countered that Jews and Latinos are increasingly two key pieces of the Democratic Party’s base.
He argued that the same Republican language on immigration that turned off Latino voters also caused Jewish voters to remain loyal to the Democratic side.
Despite a modest decline in support for Obama among Jewish voters, Jews, as well as African Americans, Latinos and gay voters remained the strongest supporters of Obama whereas exit polls showed that Romney’s strongest support group were Christian evangelicals.
On a lighter note, Troy shared his experience of teaching Romney and his campaign staff about Tisha B’Av, a Jewish mourning day commemorating the destruction of the temple.
By chance, Romney’s visit to Jerusalem prior to the elections came during Tisha B’Av. To make sure there were no mishaps, Troy found himself listing to the travelling campaign members the five restrictions of the holy day. Those include the need to avoid wearing leather shoes and to refrain from sexual activity (with Jews, that is).
Nathan Guttman, staff writer, was the Forward’s Washington bureau chief. He joined the staff in 2006 after serving for five years as Washington correspondent for the Israeli dailies Haaretz and The Jerusalem Post. In Israel, he was the features editor for Ha’aretz and chief editor of Channel 1 TV evening news. He was born in Canada and grew up in Israel. He is a graduate of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.