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Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Obama to lose the Jewish vote?

At Israel Commentary, Michael Freund writes that while Democratic Presidential candidate Barack Hussein Obama may not actually lose the Jewish vote, his totals may be worse than 1972 Democratic Presidential candidate George McGovern.
Early last month, you'll recall, headlines blared in the US and Israeli press trumpeting the results of a Gallup survey conducted back in April which found that American Jews preferred Democratic hopeful Barack Obama by a margin of 61 to 32 over his GOP rival.

For many observers, it seemed to confirm the time-honored tradition that American Jews continue to remain solidly in the Democratic camp. After all, a two-to-one margin represents a compelling advantage. However, here's something the mainstream media has not, and likely will not, tell you: Obama's support among US Jewry is on the decline.

This became apparent in another, more recent Gallup poll published on June 5, which showed that the race for support among American Jews has begun to tighten, with Obama now leading McCain by a margin of 57 to 35. That represents a narrowing of the gap from 29 to 22 points in just one month. Moreover, it comes despite the free ride, and the fawning coverage, that Obama has been getting from much of the American press.

Moreover, this latest poll was conducted after it had become clear that Obama was set to be the Democratic nominee, whereas the previous survey took place when Hillary Clinton was still very much in the race as well. In other words, now that American Jews are confronted with the stark choice between Obama and McCain, a noticeable shift has begun to take place towards the Republican contender.
57% is still a majority, but for a Democratic candidate it's not enough. The candidate who was beaten the worst in an American Presidential election - George McGovern - drew 64% of the Jewish vote to Richard Nixon's 33%. We all know who won the election. In 1984, Walter Mondale won 67% of the Jewish vote - and lost the election. The only candidate who did worse than McGovern was Obama's mentor, Jimmy Carter, who drew 45% of the Jewish vote in 1980 (and even then Ronald Reagan only won 39% - third party candidate John Anderson won 15%). Carter lost that election. While winning a large majority among Jews doesn't guarantee a victory for Democratic candidates, not winning a large majority will almost certainly guarantee a loss.
Both Bill Clinton and Al Gore each won approximately 80 percent of the Jewish vote when they sought the presidency [Clinton won, Gore didn't. CiJ]. Even the dour and uninspiring Democratic candidate John Kerry was able to take home 75 percent in the 2004 contest [and still lost. CiJ].
Why does a shift in the Jewish vote away from Obama matter so much? Freund explains.
According to a 2001 study by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, some 30% to 35% of American Jewish voters "can be lured by any party depending on its position."

Sprinkled among key battleground states in the campaign, that large group in the middle "adds up to a swing vote representing up to 2% of the electorate in states like Florida and Pennsylvania," the report noted. In addition, in the 2000 cliffhanger election between George W. Bush and Al Gore, which hinged on the outcome in Florida, that Jewish "swing vote" might have made all the difference. "A shift of that amount," the study found, "would have changed the result in that state and, in all probability, single-handedly crowned the American president. Put another way, the Jewish swing vote, mobilized behind a particular candidate, would have given him the 2000 election."

This simple fact of electoral life hasn't changed all that much in the intervening eight years, meaning that a historic opportunity may be at hand for Republican John McCain. If he continues to court the Jewish vote, and underline his opponent's obvious weak points when it comes to Israel and the Middle East, McCain could very well make further headway among American Jews and draw more of them into the Republican column.
And if McCain does, look for him to win this election. And maybe even to be the first Republican to win a majority of Jewish voters. That's where it looks like things are heading.


At 3:12 AM, Blogger Kae Gregory said...

IMHO McCain's ability to win the Jewish vote is not linked to how much the Jewish electorate is attracted to McCain, but rather how unattractive Obama is to them. Jews have an inkling that Obama might not be a choice in their best interest, but it is not a solid belief. For this reason, McCain's choice of a running mate is key. A pick seen as even slightly unfavorable by Jews collectively will obliterate his chances for reeling in the Jewish vote.

At 3:45 AM, Blogger bernie said...

A lieberman vp running mate for McCain would probably lock up the Jewish vote but how would it play for Conservatives?

If McCain had the testicle to do that it would certainly make for one of the most interesting elections in history: should voters bring in an Islamophile/almost black or a possible Jew-heart-beat-away Jew VP.

I would like to see that for only one possibility: having Lieberman visit Saudi Arabia as V.P. Imagine Saudis having to sit at the same table with a Jew! What hilarity.

At 5:27 AM, Blogger Kae Gregory said...

I agree with you that Lieberman would be a good choice. Really, the Republican base is ambivalent about McCain to begin with and many will not vote in this election. With Lieberman he would get some Republicans who have always admired the likes of Lieberman and Nunn, he will probably lock up the Jewish block and he will siphon off some of the non-straight ticket voting Democrats.

At 6:10 AM, Blogger nobody said...

As a conservative, pro-Israel, ex-Democrat, Independent gentile I can tell you that if McCain selects Joe Lieberman for veep, McCain will lose and lose big.

Not because he's Jewish but because of his liberalism on everything but Mideast security---and heck, he got tossed from the Dem Party for that.

On the other hand, Cantor of Virginia would be great. A true principled conservative.

At 10:39 AM, Blogger Carl in Jerusalem said...

I agree with Pete. Cantor would shore up both the Conservative base and the Jewish vote. That's why I'm kind of surprised that talk about him has died down over the last week.

At 1:14 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

John McCain has to nominate a pro-life conservative to quieten doubts among the base as to his bonafides and set the tone and direction of the campaign. America is still a center right country. The task of the GOP is to make it clear how leftist and out of the mainstream Obama is. That will be put at grave risk if the party tells its strongest supporters their views are not welcome in the party. In other words, all the momentum McCain could be lost if he decides to play up his "maverick" reputation.


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