Campaign Confidential

Republican Jewish Leader Claims Win in Obama Victory

By Brett Lieberman

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UPDATED 8:21 A.M

With exit polls showing that Democrat Barack Obama won an estimated 77 percent of the Jewish vote, you would think that all Republicans would be disappointed.

Yet other than the fact that Obama won, Matt Brooks, executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition, is declaring the election a success.

“The reality is that the Republicans were able to hold onto the gains and inroads that we’ve made in the past several elections,” Brooks told the Forward by phone around 1:30 a.m. from Minnesota, where he was helped U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman’s campaign.

“We stood tall in the face of a major tsunami,” Brooks said.

In making his argument, Brooks pointed to exit polls showing that Obama made significant gains among Hispanic, Asian, Catholic and other ethnic and religious groups compared to how John Kerry performed four years ago.

“What the numbers continue to show is that Barack Obama continues to under-perform among Jewish voters relative to the general electorate,” he said.

But an apples-to-apples comparison of Obama to Kerry’s performance among Jewish voters won’t be known for weeks or months at best. Initial exit polls showed Kerry won 74 percent of the Jewish vote in 2004. A Solomon Project analysis of state and national exit polls and other polling later raised Kerry’s share of the vote to 77 percent.

So Obama’s number could still rise – or fall – and it may be premature for any victory laps by Democrats and especially Brooks.

Brooks estimated RJC spent “a couple million” dollars on its newspaper and cable ads trying to make Jewish voters question Obama’s commitment to Israel.

RJC was roundly criticized for many of those ads, which often sough to tie Obama to controversial figures such as Pat Buchanan or the leaders of Iran and other countries hostile toward the United States.

Asked whether he had any second thoughts or would do anything differently, Brooks didn’t hesitate before answering in the negative.

“We controlled the debate,” he said. “We had a huge impact and Democrats had to spend record resources to defend a constituency they can usually count on.”

RJC will remain relevant “as the loyal opposition to hold Obama and the administration accountable on issues of concern to the Jewish community,” he promised.

UPDATE:

Matt Dorf, the Democratic National Committee’s Jewish outreach coordinator, e-mailed this response:

“Even this blistering defeat can’t stop the lies and deceit,” Dorf said. They threw a multi-million dollar kitchen sink at American Jewish voters who overwhelmingly rejected their lies and smears.”

“Our community stands tall today. Just because you say something it doesn’t make it true. No lies will change the historic outcome of this election,” he said.

Ira Forman, National Jewish Democratic Council executive director, said this morning:

“If this is the results we get when they drive the agenda, I hope they drive the agenda in all future years as well.”


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