Obama and Romney compete for Jewish voters

By Philip Elliott

Associated Press

Published: Saturday, July 28 2012 2:00 a.m. MDT

Such language is designed to whittle away at the Democrats' long-held advantages and nip away at the 78 percent support Obama enjoyed among Jews on Election Day 2008.

The Gallup polling organization reported Friday that Obama's standing stood at 68 percent among Jews, while 25 percent favored Romney.

"They elected him with historic numbers but they have to look at how President Obama has handled the whole situation," said Rich Beeson, Romney's political director. "Voters can say, 'I've not made a mistake, but he has not lived up to what he promised and it's OK to (vote for someone else).' Every vote that we can peel off from Barack Obama helps."

That approach fuels the on-the-ground effort to continue Jewish voters' slide away from the Democratic fold. Romney allies at the Republican Jewish Coalition are planning a $6.5 million campaign to help GOP candidates, and Romney himself is looking to reach into Jewish communities in Florida, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Ohio, North Carolina and Nevada.

But the Jewish vote won't make a difference in this election. Exit polls show Jewish voters typically make up 2 percent to 4 percent of the electorate nationwide. In 2008, they were 2 percent of voters nationwide and Republican Sen. John McCain won just 21 percent of them.

In 2004, George W. Bush fared a bit better, winning 25 percent of the vote, the largest share of the Jewish vote any Republican has earned since 1988.

But that's not to say they don't have clout.

"Jews are less important as voters than they are as activists and contributors. Jews provide pretty close to half of the money available to Democratic candidates," said Benjamin Ginsburg, a political science professor at Johns Hopkins University.

And it's not as though Israel alone will even decide Jewish voters' preference. A survey earlier this year by the American Jewish Committee found only 6 percent of American Jews listed U.S.-Israel relations as their top priority. The economy was the top concern, at 29 percent, followed by health care, at 20 percent.

"When it comes to determining votes in the American Jewish community, it is not a safe assumption that Jews are single-issue constituency that cares only about Israel," said Jeremy Ben-Ami, president of J Street, a pro-Israeli group that promotes a two-state solution to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through diplomacy instead of military action.

"Jews are just like all other Americans. They're fully integrated in the United States. They are concerned about their jobs, their kids' education and just like all other voters, the voting patterns and approval ratings move in the context of the larger race," Ben-Ami said.

Associated Press Deputy Director of Polling Jennifer Agiesta contributed to this report.

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