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President Obama has a Jewish problem, and it may cost him a second term in office. In 2008, few groups were most slavish in their support of Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s most famous pew-dweller than the Children of Israel, delivering 78 percent of their votes to the man of hope and change. And change they got.
In tone and substance, Obama has been more hostile to the Jewish state than any previous occupant of the Oval Office. Their votes bought the Jewish community the president’s demeaning snubs of Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and his bizarre fealty to the Islamist leader of Turkey, who singlehandedly reversed his nation’s felicitous relationship with Israel.
Things only got worse. Jewish America has watched anxiously as Obama’s pusillanimous inaction toward Iran has encouraged the Persian rush to nuke the Jewish state. But it was the president’s insistence on 1967 borders, rendering Israel as a bite-sized Happy Meal for encircling Islamist Jew-ivores that finally set this most loyal Democratic support group back on its heels.
Republican Jews warned in 2008 that Obama’s real audacity – or, perhaps more properly stated, chutzpah – would become clear as he threw Israel under the bus, but that did not stop their brethren from giving him their money and votes. However, as the infamous reverend who married the Obamas would eventually intone: The chickens have come home to roost.
It seems likely that the Republicans will nominate Gov. Mitt Romney to face the president in November’s election. Unlike the atrabilious John McCain, who was detested by most Republican activists, Romney is seen as a genial and temperate nominee. While his ideological bona fides have been challenged repeatedly in the past several months, he is infinitely more right-wing than McCain ever was, and few serious psephologists expect conservative voters to stay home and grant their most reviled nemesis a second term. It is likely, therefore, that the election will be decided by razor thing majorities in key battleground states. Enter the Jews.
For the past several weeks, Obama and his Democratic political hacks have been positing that his presidency is not the most calamitous in the history of the Jewish state, but actually the most supportive. Now that’s audacity. Their problem is that a sizable portion of the Jewish community does not seem to be drinking the Kool-Aid Obama plans to serve the rest of the nation. Scores of YouTube videos reminding Jewish voters of Obama’s perfidious treatment of Israel rebut the notion that the president is with them on the most urgent issue on the Jewish agenda. While no one expects a majority of Jews to vote for the Republican, the feverish White House efforts to recast the Israel narrative point to their real fear that the Jews could, indeed, play a significant role in this election, and not the one they wish.
Most American Jewish votes are cast in New York, New Jersey and California – states unlikely to make any Republican target list. Obama will garner most of the votes in those venues. That leaves the key battleground states. Most observers expect that the election will be won or lost in a handful of states, including Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan, Colorado, Virginia and North Carolina. While Jews remain a small percentage of the population in each of these states, the extraordinary percentage of Jews who actually vote, combined with the possibility of tenuous vote margins, could mean that a very few thousand Jewish votes could decide which man places his hand on the inaugural Bible next Jan. 20.
In each of the eight states listed above, the victor might prevail by less than 2 percent of the ballots cast. Jewish turnout in elections rivals any demographic group, whether the election is for dog catcher or president of the United States. There is no reason to expect a change in November 2012.
In Florida, 450,000 Jews are likely to vote in the presidential election. While Obama won Florida in 2008 by more than 250,000 votes, it is expected that this year the margin separating him from Romney will be much narrower. If only a small percentage of the Jews bolt from Obama due to his harsh treatment of the Jewish state, that could easily push Florida into the red-state column.
Ohio has far fewer Jews than Florida, but they could play a pivotal role in the outcome of the election there as well. Exit polling showed Romney soundly carrying the counties with large Jewish populations. Nathan Diament, head of the powerful Orthodox Union government affairs office in Washington, D.C., notes that “given the Jews turn out at an 80 percent turnout rate, if you swing the Jewish vote 10 percent in Ohio, that could give you Ohio.” Furthermore, this year the Republican senatorial nominee is Ohio state Treasurer Josh Mandel, a Jewish conservative who has kindled great enthusiasm among his co-religionists. Mandel’s Jewish coattails might carry swing thousands of additional Jewish votes to the Republican presidential ticket.
Pennsylvania has almost 300,000 Jewish voters. In a close election, the shift of 10 percent of the Jewish vote could return Pennsylvania to the Republican column. The same can be said for each of the other battleground states. Rushing to take advantage of this possibility, the Republican Jewish Coalition has launched an unprecedented effort to train Jewish political activists to turn out the Jewish vote for the Republicans in these key states. A new group, the Young Jewish Conservatives, are organizing college campuses, with an almost singular focus on the battleground states. These groups see that this could be one of the few elections where the Jewish vote matters, and they are pouring resources into voter turnout. On the other side of the aisle, the Democrats are relying on their national chairman, Rep. Deborah Wasserman Schultz, to keep Jewish voters in the fold. She has her work cut out for her in the battleground states.
A recent Pew survey, released by the Republican Jewish Coalition, must be boosting Ambien sales among Democratic political bosses, since it shows serious erosion in Jewish support for the Democrats. If the trend continues, the Obama campaign, already fighting against African-American and young voter apathy and disappointment, will be hoisted with the petard of their hostility to the state of Israel by one of their most ardent constituencies. One can just imagine the Rev. Wright sermon that would soon follow.