Note: This week, we spent much time looking at polls which indicate that the Jewish vote may be inching away from voting to reelect Barack Obama in 2012. In my latest weekly political column for the Jewish Star, a Long Island Jewish Newspaper, I summarize much of the recent qualitative data and examine the possible electoral vote consequences of a Jewish Vote shift. I reprint that column below (with some additional insights and some minor changes).
It seems as if the straw has broken the camel’s back. According to multiple sources, Democrats of the Jewish faith are waking up to the fact that Barack Obama is not a friend of Israel. And many of them are considering holding back their campaign donations and their votes back from the President’s re-election campaign. Giving further credence to the reports, the re-election campaign is taking additional steps to “spin” the administration’s Israel story to make it seem more favorable to the Jewish State.
Ben Smith of Politico interviewed dozens of Jews who supported the President in 2008 and reported this story which when added to discussions I have had seem very typical:
“David Ainsman really began to get worried about President Barack Obama’s standing with his fellow Jewish Democrats when a recent dinner with his wife and two other couples — all Obama voters in 2008 — nearly turned into a screaming match.”
Ainsman, a prominent Democratic lawyer and Pittsburgh Jewish community leader, was trying to explain that Obama had just been offering Israel a bit of “tough love” in his May 19 speech on the Arab Spring. His friends disagreed — to say the least.
One said he had the sense that Obama “took the opportunity to throw Israel under the bus.” Another, who swore he wasn’t getting his information from the mutually despised Fox News, admitted he’d lost faith in the president.”
But it wasn’t just this particular speech, it seems as if it is a cumulative effect of all of the times Obama has thrown Israel and its leaders under the bus since he was elected president.
“It’s less something specific than that these incidents keep on coming,” said Ainsman.
Ainsman is correct. Obama’s “war on Israel” began just a few days after his inauguration with the appointment of Samantha Power to the National Security Council (Power once famously called for an invasion of Israel to force her to accept a peace plan.) And was quickly followed up with his Cairo speech where he downplayed the role of terrorism, made Hamas seem like a rowdy boys glee club, called for the internationalization of Jerusalem, and used the Palestinian party line (that Israel owes its existence to the Holocaust) to describe the Israeli presence not only in the Judea and Samaria but its very presence as a nation.
Perhaps in response to reports Such as Ben Smith’s, or possibly due to some internal polling the President’s re-election campaign is planning to send out surrogates to go on the offensive against pro-Israel groups critical of the president’s Israel policy.
According to the Washington Post this Obama Jew-squad will include Jewish Obama fundraisers, such as former Conference of Presidents leader Alan Solow, former U.S. Reps. Mel Levine and Robert Wexler, and billionaire Penny Pritzker, whose fundraising rolodex was a major factor in the 2008 campaign.
This group of house-Jews will work hard to convince that Obama is really pro-Israel, but short of Bobby Ewing stepping out of the shower and claiming the last two years were just a bad dream, or lying, I am at a loss at how they will be able to convince people that the President is really a buddy of the Jewish State.
The effort to make this point will also be proactive with surrogates publishing op ed pieces that represent the White House’s point of view. It will include a renewed effort to highlight other aspects of Obama’s record that have gone under-discussed, like increased military cooperation between Israel and the United States.
But the fact that saving the Jewish vote is becoming a key effort of the Obama administration is further proof that the re-election campaign is losing Jewish money or at the very least internal polls are beginning to show that many Jews are considering either voting GOP or not voting for President at all in 2012.
What the reelection campaign doesn’t get is that its not all about Israel. Even hard-core pro-Israel Jews do not vote on only one issue. For example I voted for George HW Bush in 1992 even though (before Obama) he may have been the most Anti-Israel President in history.
The only Democrat that didn’t receive the majority of the Jewish vote was Jimmy Carter when he ran for re-election. Certainly Israel wasn’t the only reason that 55% of American Jews voted against Jimmy Carter in 1980. But, just as what happened 31 years ago, Barack Obama’s anti-Israel policies are causing liberal Jews to take the rose-tint off their glasses and evaluate what has happened since January 2009.
Despite his failed Presidency and his anti-Israel positions, Obama will most likely receive the majority of the Jewish vote, albeit a smaller percentage than in 2008. However should the current Jewish voter trend continue many Jewish Democrats may “skip” the President line at the voting booth and concentrate on the remaining candidates or even stay home totally. Of course where the Jewish vote goes also depends very heavily on the GOP candidate (but that is a different column).
Even if a major segment of liberal Jews stay home or hold their noses and vote GOP, the entire Jewish population represents only 2.2% of the U.S. population what kind of impact could they have? Their impact depends on the voting margin between the candidates. In a close election, a shift of Jewish votes could lose key battleground states for Obama. States where there is a relatively larger Jewish population such as
Other states with a big Jewish populations New York, Massachusetts and California wouldn’t shift from Obama even if he was caught in bed with the proverbial “dead woman or live sheep.” And as a favorite son of Illinois he can count on that state’s electoral votes. But a shift of 73 electoral votes, 20% of his 2008 total of 365 will make it much more difficult for President Obama to be reelected.
Keep in mind we are still 16 months before the election, heck we are still six months before the Iowa caucuses the official beginning of the primary season, there is still a very long way to go and the situation can change quickly.
What wont change is the fact that whether the President’s PR Hebrew hit squad is successful or not, its formation is an indication that the reports are true, the reelection committee is getting a bit nervous about losing the Jewish vote in 2012.
Jeff Dunetz is the Editor/Publisher of the political blog “The Lid” (www.jeffdunetz.com). Jeff contributes to some of the largest political sites on the internet including Pajamas Media, Big Government, Big Peace and Big Journalism.