Can the GOP Really Make Inroads Into Florida’s Jewish Vote?

Recent conversations about the Jewish vote are gripping the Sunshine State’s politicos. Once again reporters, and political analysts are buying the Republican hype that we heard in 2004 and 2008 that the Republicans can make significant inroads into the Jewish vote particularly in southeast Florida. This vote which was captured only once by a Republican Presidential candidate in modern history (Ronald Regan in 1980) is according to some pundits up for grabs in 2012. Jewish voters accounted for 5% of Florida’s electorate in 2008 but could account for as much as 6 or 7% this time. Obama won 78% of Florida’s Jewish vote in 2008.

Republicans do have some reason for optimism this year as leading propagandists on the right have misrepresented Barack Obama’s record on Israel and Mideast policy. While President Obama has struck a balanced policy towards the region, his administrations support for Israel be it at the United Nations or in other international disputes seems to be easily forgotten by those seeking political gain in this year’s election. In fact many Europeans I speak to (working in soccer I speak to Europeans regularly) feel Obama has been too protective of Israeli interests with respect to the shifting winds of Mideast politics. They believe, probably wrongly that he has done little to push forward the Mideast peace process. But it demonstrates the differing perceptions of Obama’s policies and governing style between American conservatives and European liberals.

Facts can be stubborn things with regards to Israel for those looking to undercut Obama’s re-election chances. The President is of course responsible for the death of Osama Bin Laden and over 2/3 the al-Qaida leadership. This President, unlike George W. Bush is not responsible for destabilizing the Middle East and installing regimes friendly to Tehran in places where Iran previously had minimal influence. The Bush Administration’s policies led directly to a stronger Iran with more influence over the Middle East and Central Asian regions. The result of these policies was a less safe existence for Israel.

The Romney advertisement embedded above does more to solidify the GOP base vote in the Jewish community than to win over Democratic Jews. Public opinion polls and previous exit polling data has shown approximately 13 to 18% of Florida’s Jewish voters do list Israel as their biggest issue when casting a ballot. However, many of these voters are firmly in the Republican column. The voters that do primarily focus on Israel, those from the Orthodox and Conservative synagogues abandoned John Kerry in 2004 in favor of George W. Bush and voted for John McCain in 2008. Many of these voters first cast a ballot for a Republican in 1998 when Jeb Bush and his Democratic allies blatantly misrepresented Buddy MacKay’s Congressional voting record on Israel to make inroads into the southeast Florida community. In many cases it was unprincipled local Democrats who had been frozen out in the Chiles/MacKay administration or were allied with sugar who skewered MacKay and helped elect Jeb Bush.

As someone who has worked extensively in the Jewish communities of Palm Beach and Broward counties I have a sense of what motivates these voters around election day. The caricature of Bill Clinton’s character in primary colors, who pandered endlessly to Jewish Democratic voters by talking about the State of Israel is not an accurate reflection of Jewish Democratic voters in the condos and single family developments of southeast Florida.

The vast majority of Jewish voters in southeast Florida are concerned about domestic issues particularly religious freedom and social justice. They are on an ideological scale the most liberal voters in the state. When it comes to Presidential politics, the perceived rightward drift of the GOP’s rhetorical themes ( even if in practice the Republicans are not as conservative as they claim to be) has solidified southeast Florida’s Jewish vote with the Democrats in increasing numbers since the 1988 election.

The Republicans continued emphasis on divisive social issues and the “war against women” make their efforts to pick up large chunks of Florida’s Jewish electorate untenable. If Mitt Romney and his big spending allies are serious about splitting Jewish voters from their party of choice, they will emphasize their willingness to tolerate divergent points of view within their party and minimize discussion of issues such as abortion, school prayer, school vouchers, civil rights, and health care.

It can be argued that some extremists on the left are helping the GOP in their efforts to recruit Jewish voters. We can save that discussion for another day but rest assured it is highly unlikely to be successful because of the vast gulf in between the view of domestic policy among Jewish voters and the GOP.

When push comes to shove and despite consistent efforts by the GOP at a minimum 65 to 70% of Jewish voters in Florida will vote for Obama. Most Republican strategists know this but feel shaving any amount of previous Obama voters away from the President could make a difference in a close state. Or it could be an entirely meaningless exercise that takes focus away from the GOP’s efforts to reel in more attainable voters.

25 thoughts on “Can the GOP Really Make Inroads Into Florida’s Jewish Vote?”

  1. I think they will nibble around the edges and pick up a minimum of 5% of the Jewish vote. But Obama’s positions remain popular in the community particularly after the contraception and same sex marriage battles.

    Israel a non issue for most Jews.

  2. Obama has definitely shown his loyalty for Israel, not withstanding the US latest financial support during Romney’s trip….One of the best advocates for the Jewish folks is Robert Wexler, former Congressman of Florida….

    On June 10, 2008 Wexler co-sponsored and signed Dennis Kucinich’s article of impeachment for George Bush. Nancy Pelosi wouldn’t support a resolution saying it wouldn’t succeed. Both Robert Wexler and Dennis Kucinich understand reason and served in congress honorably….

  3. Obama is horrible period.

    He has been good for the south Florida Jews who push a secular agenda but bad for those of us in the rest of the state concerned about high taxes, protecting our churches from accepting Obama secular socialized Obamacare and bad for us who support traditional rules of marriage. I voted for him 2008 based on his hope and change mantra but he’s been a left winger.

    Sorry but I support Romney as a proud traditional Democrat from the party of FDR, Truman, Reuben Askew and Lawton Chiles.

  4. I think Obama’s record has been misrepresented by the Republicans and I have to believe race or maybe his last name is a factor in them driving this perception that he is anti-Israeli.

    He’s had three chiefs of staff, two of whom have been Jewish and the current one Jack Lew an observant orthodox Jew. That’s better than any Republican administration. He appointed a Jewish DNC Chair our own DWS.

    How can he be anti-Israel? He’s not. He’s just not aligned with Netanyahu and those who don’t want to advance the peace process.

  5. Concerned Democrat

    need a switch card dude?

    get your freaking rear end out of our party!

    You totally misrepresent the legacies of FDR, Chiles etc.

    You are more a Jesse Helms like Democrat. I think they called them Jessecrats in NC. That’s you.

  6. Concerned Democrat

    On this issue it is dangerous because the neocons have so much influence now over the Republicans and most are big Israel proponents. They will be surrogates for Romney and could sway some voters. That is the real danger.

  7. I am a true democrat. From the traditional party where we kept the values and hopes of the Ds alive. The northerners and liberals that now are democrats were Republicans that empowered wall street and hurt main street. We need to stop talking about gays and guns and embrace god while being economic populists to succeed.

  8. I’m not worried.

    As you state we heard the same in 04 and 08.

    The gains of bushies and now Romney were minimal and marginal.

  9. South Palm Beach County Democrat

    Now isn’t this an interesting topic. The Republicans constantly say they will win this vote and never can. The joke around Palm Beach for years was that Krishnaiyer was really Jewish. This piece is right on the money, your best piece when compared to some of the utter garbage you have spewed about Sugar, Clemens, Smith, and others.

    Those who have a pulse on the Jewish vote locally, Congressman Ted Deutch and Former Congressman Robert Wexler stand closely with Obama.

    Robert Wexler speaks the truth when he proudly says:

    “There is no credible way to attack Barack Obama on the security of Israel or the security of America. This is the guy who went in and took out Osama bin Laden, and this is the guy who in three years took out two-thirds of the leadership of al-Qaida,”

    We stand with Congressmen Wexler and Deutch, with Israel and with Obama.

    I agree that most Jewish voters vote on social issues and from that perspective Obama is the best ever quite possibly but even those who vote on Israel have ZERO real reason to support Romney.

    While their is a lot of hype out there, Kartik like your article says it is all bark and no bite. As always we will turn out the vote and re-elect Obama this fall. The few troublemakers in our community have long since left the party.

  10. The troublemakers are still there. Siegal is planning on your for State Party chair. I agree with this piece but Wexler is not respected by the Jewish community at this point. To be frank he has not been since 2008. How is that ambassadorship going? lol Harry says hello. You really should not be spilling your garbage to Siegal…his mouth travels. I guess we will wait until the trial. Siegal lol

  11. Concerned D Money

    Should we give you the list? Everything always catches it. Look at Stacey on channel 10 lol

  12. I think this was more of a threat months ago.

    We have successfully pushed back on this.

  13. Excellent article…I do not think that their will be any leakage of the Jewish vote honestly. The tea party’s craziness which did not exist in 2008 has solidified socially liberal Jews even more to the Dems and I predict some Republican Jews will will come over.

  14. Sheldon Adelson has committed $10 million plus to a superpac to attack POTUS on Israel so stay tuned. We may lose some of these supporters.

  15. Honestly I’m Jewish and while I support Israel I am much more concerned about Florida and America. Any Jew not voting for Obama because of foreign policy either has family in Israel or is simply being brainwashed. I have no hesitation is voting for him even if he is horrible on Israel which as this article demonstrates he is not.

  16. Maddox was a racist but on other issues he was pretty good. But on race we’ve gone to the opposite extreme.

  17. I voted for Obama and have voted for every D running for Governor. I was not old enough to vote for Pajcic but that would be one exception. He was an ultra leftist.