There’s a full-court press going on. And no, I’m not talking about Olympic basketball.
Presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney and his GOP allies are unleashing an extraordinary amount of cash to fund hearts-and-minds campaigns across the country in an attempt to win Jewish votes – about 4 percent of the American electorate - in November.
Casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson, a vigorous supporter of Israel and owner of the Israel Hayom newspaper, has pledged to fund Romney’s campaign to the Nth degree, while the Republican Jewish Coalition is donating more than $6 million to an anti-Obama “Buyer’s Remorse” campaign in the battleground states of Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Florida, according to Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns of Politico, and Jeff Zeleny of The New York Times.
That’s very impressive. So impressive that the Democrats – the historical party of American Jews – are slightly more concerned than they were four years ago when John McCain ran for office and won only 21 percent of the Jewish vote. Couple that with a stagnant economy, battle over health care, an unnerving situation in the Middle East, and the ever-looming Iranian elephant-in-the-room, no wonder Republicans are coming out fighting with a glimmer of hope.
But is it enough to “win” the Jewish vote? No, but I think he’ll be able to force some turnovers.
A recent American Jewish Committee (AJC) poll found that the economy (80%), health care (57%), taxes (26%), and national security (26%) were the top issues for the next election. U.S. relations with Israel, Social Security, and Iran followed up with 22%, 22%, and 15%, respectively. By this list, it appears that Romney could very well tap into the Jewish vote and snag some ballots from the Democrats, though Jewish voters prefer Obama (68%) to Romney (25%) according to last month’s Gallup poll. That’s less for Obama, and for Romney, more than McCain in 2008.
And yet, while Romney rubs elbows and rakes in the cash of his wealthy benefactors, the average American Jew tends to be less religious and more liberal than his or her Republican cousin. The same AJC poll has respondents religiously self-identifying as Reform (34%), Conservative (26%), and “Just Jewish” (26%) as the top leaders, with the typically traditional Orthodox at 8%. Fifty-two percent of the respondents claimed to be Democrats, 19% Republicans, and an intriguing 26% as independents. Romney’s best bet would be to target the independent voters, but even so, Democrats were found to make the right decisions in the poll’s issue categories.
To throw another wrench at the numbers, a Pew report found that not only are there more Republican-leaning independents, but that Jewish support for the GOP rose and the preference for Democrats dropped from 52 to 36 points over Republicans. Nevertheless, the Pew report makes clear that “Jewish voters…have traditionally been and remain one of the strongest Democratic constituencies.”
The key word is “remain,” but the stats are interesting, nonetheless.
There is little doubt to me that Romney will win the Jewish Republican vote and the votes of those who have Israel at the top of their issue list like Adelson. There’s a good chance he will steal some independents down the line who are disenchanted with Obama’s first term on more than one issue, and Romney would love to do that in the swing states.
In my mind, it’s not if Romney can “win” Jewish votes away from Obama come November – he will – but whether Obama can keep most of them – particularly the independents – by touting the very ideals, the shared ideals, that secured his success in 2008 in the wake of a turbulent first term.