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Parties Fight For Dem-Leaning Jewish Voters

New report finds tilt even as both sides make their cases—to everyone

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Republican candidate Mitt Romney yesterday.(Nicholas Kamm/AFP/GettyImages)

The nonpartisan Solomon Project released a new study of Jewish voting patterns in presidential elections from 1972 through 2008, which found that, generally but especially over the past two decades, a strikingly high percentage of Jews voted for the Democratic candidates. It also reported what Democratic officials have long been saying quietly: that the 2008 national exit poll showing that 78 percent of Jewish voters went for President Obama was a bit high, and that a look at state exit polls would bring the number closer to 75—in fact, the Solomon Project’s number is 74. It concluded, in the words of an emailed release, that “Jewish voters are, in-fact, still solidly Democratic.”

My read of this is that while the Solomon Project may be nonpartisan, the release and particularly circulation of this study are not: it helps Democrats both by continuing to advance the narrative that Mitt Romney has precious little chance of making substantial inroads among the Jewish population and, paradoxically, with that downwardly revised 2008 figure, by lowering expectations so that when Obama—in a race that, almost certainly, will overall be much closer than 2008’s—scores, say, 71 or even 69 percent of the Jewish vote, it doesn’t appear to be quite so big a drop. (UPDATE: Josh Nathan-Kazis notes that two of the pollsters have Democratic connections.)

Meanwhile, the main players in the Jewish vote battle, the Republican Jewish Coalition and the National Jewish Democratic Council, are both busy at work. RJC head Matt Brooks is in Israel along with former President George W. Bush press secretary Ari Fleischer for “I Vote Israel”. Basically, it’s a drive for Israel’s 160,000 eligible voters, who could actually, ostensibly, play a role in a state like Florida if it’s close; and the RJC is there, of course, to try to make sure the Republicans (who are likely more preponderant in Israel than in the States, even if they’re also still likely dwarfed by Democrats) don’t forget to fill out their absentee ballots. The most comprehensive secondhand report on Brooks and Fleischer’s efforts actually comes from Mondoweiss, which (predictably) focuses on the RJC’s efforts to get out the vote among Republicans living in East Jerusalem and West Bank settlements (the RJC is also targeting U.S. voters in Israel proper). But one senses the RJC’s audience isn’t just the few Jews it addresses firsthand. According to Haaretz, Fleischer argued, “I do not ever want to have a president in the Oval Office who will make us scratch our heads and wonder, ‘Does he or does he not have Israel’s back?'” and that’s something it wants the whole country to hear.

The NJDC’s latest effort has been calling on Romney to not accept money from casino magnate and former Newt Gingrich benefactor Sheldon Adelson, who has already pledged tens of millions to affiliated SuperPACs. The grounds for these calls are allegations of prostitution at Adelson-owned casinos in Macau, China (where prostitution is largely legal, but never mind; anyway, Adelson denies the allegations). But the NJDC’s gambit may have backfired, with folks like Alan Dershowitz and Abe Foxman, who are center-right on Israel but staunch Democrats, strongly condemning the efforts to taint Adelson, whom both men defend as a good man and a friend to Jews and Israel.

Though both sides pay lip service, and more, to the importance of the Jewish vote and to the notion that they are messaging to the Jewish community, it’s not only that. The RJC would surely love for more Americans in Israel to vote, and vote Republican; the NJDC would surely love for Adelson to be thought of as a shanda by as many of his fellow Jews as possible. However, these groups are also logical surrogates for their respective parties and candidates when it comes to these national issues. In going to Israel, the RJC is highlighting Obama’s alleged failure to adequately sustain the U.S.-Israel relationship, which bothers more than just Jews; in attacking Adelson, the NJDC is trying to associate Romney with an unsavory donor specifically and big-money special interests generally, which is a big Democratic talking-point this year among all voters. You’re only a pawn in their game—which is another way of saying, it’s politics.

Jewish American Voting Behavior 1972-2008: Just the Facts [Solomon Project]
Republicans Woo the Settler Vote [Mondoweiss]
Is Adelson’s Money Tainted, or Not? [Forward Thinking]

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salemst says:

No choice. For me it’s 100% Romney.
No question who’d be the better friend to Israel.

@salemst:disqus

“For me it’s 100% Romney. No question who’d be the better friend to Israel.”

Riiiiiiight. Because a man with an almost sociopathic lack of empathy for anyone less privileged than him is really the best candidate to care for Jews. Romney’s “friendship” basically involves pressuring Israel to expand the settlements and go to war with Iran. That’s just what Israel needs: more violence, more war, more death, more hatred, more animosity with its neighbors, etc. With friends like Romney, Israel doesn’t need enemies.

    EvenSteven11 says:

    You’re a joke. You should be embarrassed how dumb you are.

PhillipNagle says:

While there are some questions about Romney, there are none about Obama. He has consistantly undermined Israel’s peace efforts, imposing preconditions that even the arabs didn’t ask for. He has proposed a land split he knew Israel could never agree to. It is not suprising since Obama attended an anti-Semitic (and anti American) church for 20 years. One of his first acts as president was to go to Egypt and appologize for past US behavior. He has yet to visit Israel as president. At my synogogue, his support would be far less than 50%.

edlobel says:

willard has NEVER, ever done a damned thing to help Israel in anyway. Just because he says something does not make him a friend. There are a lot of things he says and then says the exact opposit the next day. His close friends say how generous he is and donates tons of money, but what they do not tell you that every single cent he donates goes to the mormon church, which is NO friend to Israel! Willard is such a believer in the faith that he has baptised some of your (possilbe) relatived into his church saying that while alive they never had the chance to convert. Didn’t do it to other religions, only to Jews. Willard hasn’t come out and said he is sorry he did this and never will. Any Jew who supports him is downright disgraceful to our religion!
While I might not agree with everything President Obama does as relates to Israel and some of it’s neighbors, I strongly believe he actually has Israel’s back and would not allow anything bad to happen to our ally.

Whatever. We keep saying this and then American Jews break 75-25 for the Democrat again and again.

It’s culture. Red versus blue is now rural versus urban, and Jews have lived in cities since the Middle Ages. What’s the biggest Jewish community in America? Oh right, the biggest city in America.

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Parties Fight For Dem-Leaning Jewish Voters

New report finds tilt even as both sides make their cases—to everyone

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