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Sunday, September 10, 2006

Jewish community could decide Santorum's political future

According to Philadelphia Jewish Exponent editor Jonathan S. Tobin, the Jewish community of Pennsylvania may hold in its hands the political future of Republican Senator Rick Santorum, who has been a strong supporter of Israel and a social conservative.
Jews make up less than 2.5 percent of the population in Pennsylvania. But in a race that could be decided by a tiny margin, higher Jewish turnout rates could prove crucial to the outcome of the election and, ultimately to the ability of the Republicans to hold on to a majority in the Senate.

The question is: Can Santorum's ardent pro-Israel credentials trump his status as the embodiment of religious conservatism to win enough Jewish votes to help squeak out a third term? The answer from the Democrats is a resounding "no."

They argue that support for Israel in Washington is a bipartisan affair that will not suffer from Santorum's absence. They also assert that once in office, the uncharismatic Casey will prove to be just as friendly to Israel as Santorum.

Even more important is the fact that most Jews are simply not single-issue voters. And they're probably right to think that no matter how active on behalf of pro-Israel causes Santorum may be, many Jews would still never vote for a pro-life Catholic Republican, even if the alternative were a pro-life Democrat who was considered lukewarm on Israel.

Ron Klink, Santorum's foe in 2000, proved this point when he still won the majority of Jewish votes, albeit by a narrow margin, despite being weak on Israel while opposing both abortion and gun control. But the difference between then and now is that Santorum has been even more outspoken about his conservative social beliefs in the last six years. His controversial book highlighting these views may have enhanced his status nationally among Republicans, but it alienated even more liberal and centrist Pennsylvanians.

The heightened spirit of partisanship that has injected so much bitterness and anger into the process since the national elections of 2000 and 2004 may also work against Santorum.

Whereas in 2000, the presence of a pro-life and anti-gun control Democrat on the ballot against Santorum dismayed enough liberals to depress both fundraising and vote turnout for Klink, Casey's candidacy has been warmly embraced by Jewish Democrats despite his social views. Dislike for Santorum and the GOP majority runs so deep that hard-core liberals seem to be willing to hold their noses and work to elect a candidate like Casey, whose campaign hinges on him being the un-Santorum.

The irony of this is not lost on Republican Jews, who think foreign-policy issues ought to be even more important in deciding Jewish votes in the 2006 race than they were in 2000.
Read the whole thing.

As most of you can probably guess already, I agree with the Republican Jews and would vote for Santorum if I had the right to vote in Pennsylvania.


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