May 9, 2008
Obama and the Jewish Vote
The Jewish vote in the coming presidential election is up for grabs to an extent unseen for almost three decades, assuming Barack Obama wins his party's nomination. And that has got Jewish Democrat activists worried.
An email is circulating in the Jewish community in Chicago from a Democratic Party operative, containing an article written last year about why his party is where Jews belong. Some of the arguments that are used make the case are that both parties are good for Israel, so Jews need to look at other things, such as that Democrats "care" more for people in need. Republican Jews, the author claims, are either greedy or scared. Such rhetoric flies in the face of the alleged unity-inducing quality that is often trumpeted as a key appeal of Obama. By demonizing Jews who support Republicans, Democrat partisans are merely revealing their insecurities about the bona fides of their presumptive presidential candidate.
And crime of crimes, the article asserts that the GOP is the party that brought the Terry Schiavo case to a vote in Congress, thereby mixing church and state. I have my doubts that the Terry Schiavo case is an issue that will resonate at the moment with Jewish voters, given Iran's nuclear program nearing completion (Barack Obama says he'll talk to Ahmadinejad about it), economic worries (Barack Obama says the solution is to raise taxes and spend a lot more government money), and the war in Iraq (Barack Obama says get out now, and leave the locals to fend off Iran and al Qaeda).
As it turns out, Democrats in Congress from Illinois voted 4 to 2 for the Schiavo legislation. I really have no interest in how Barack Obama voted on the Schiavo case. I care about his views on Iran, Israel, Iraq, the economy. It turns out Obama was for the Schiavo legislation (voted for it), before being against it (shades of another Democratic presidential candidate I remember).
The letter that is circulating with the email repeats several times the results of a totally discredited poll from the 2006 congressional elections that suggested Jews voted 87% for Democrats that year. The author concludes, none too subtly, that if the Messiah appears, there is an 87% chance he will be a Democrat. I never thought about the Messiah in terms of red and blue before, but then it is not I mixing church and state with my metaphors.
That 87% poll result was based on a survey sample of 200 Jewish voters in the national exit poll. That is a very small sample size for a national subgroup, and was not a randomly selected sample. The entire exit poll sample size was near 13,000. So Jews, who typically represent 3% of the voting population, were but 1.5% of this national sample. That does not sound right either. In any case, when I first saw the articles and emails from liberal Jews gloating about the poll with the 87% figure, I wrote a few pieces (like this one) on why the survey was unreliable nonsense. Some of the gloating emailers who had contacted me agreed and backtracked. But now the Jewish Democrats are back spouting the poll as fact again. A random sample of 1,000 Jewish voters were surveyed in three states after the 2006 races, and that showed Jews voted 75% for Democrats, 25% for GOP candidates, almost exactly as they split between John Kerry and George Bush in 2004.
If 25% was too high a percentage of Jewish Republicans for liberal Jews to stomach, they must really be having heart burn with the new Gallup poll, that showed that The Democrats' 50 point win over Bush with Kerry is now but a 29 point lead for Obama over McCain (61-32, with 7% undecided). In a state like Florida, with about 400,000 Jewish voters in Presidential election years, that is a net shift of about 85,000 votes. John McCain is trouncing Obama in virtually every poll in Florida taken to date, and the shift among Jewish voters seems to be part of Obama's problem in the state. I think given the way some Clinton voters have told pollsters they were for Obama this year (an average over-polling for Obama of close to 5% in primary states), my guess is that many of the undecideds are really McCain voters, and so are some of the 61% who say they are for Obama.
McCain could break the modern day GOP high water mark of 39% set by Ronald Reagan against Jimmy Carter in 1980, which was before Carter's venomous attitude towards the Jewish state was so evident. A shift of that magnitude could make a difference in Pennsylvania, a state Kerry won by only 2.5% in 2004, and in which Obama was soundly beaten by Clinton in the recent primary. There are over 200,000 Jewish voters in Pennsylvania.
None of this is surprising. Jews who care about Israel have many reasons to have concerns about Barack Obama, pretty much all of which have been laid out in the American Thinker in a series of exhaustively researched articles by Ed Lasky. Of course, some Jews do not care about Israel very much, and those Jews can find a comfortable home in the Democratic Party, where support for Israel is far lower than among Republicans overall in every national survey that has been taken comparing the parties on this issue.
In any case, with Obama a risk on Israel and untested in matters of national security and foreign policy, and with the Republicans offering John McCain, a long time strong supporter of the US-Israel relationship and a man, whose entire career provides a definition of the words "tested" and "experienced", it is no wonder that those Jews who choose this year to finally vote Republican will have a lot more company than they might have in the past.
Richard Baehr is chief political correspondent of American Thinker.