Campaigning as a “Democrat who was re-elected as independent now here to support a Republican for president,” U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman told Jewish voters in southeastern Pennsylvania that he remains convinced that Republican John McCain is the best candidate to lead the country even as the focus of the election has shifted from national security to financial security.
“All days but particularly now country matters more than party, that’s the bottom line,” Lieberman told about 50 Jewish voters at Temple Beth Hillel in Wynnewood Friday morning.
He later spoke to about 70 retirees at B’rith Shalom House in Philadelphia and then about 120 mostly politically conservative Jews at Congregation Shaare Shamayim.
While mostly receptive audiences, the 2000 Democratic vice presidential nominee faced skeptical and sometimes outwardly hostile questioning about McCain’s selection of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate.
Lieberman responded that the election is about deciding whether Barack Obama or McCain will be president. Based on his own interactions with Palin and others he’s spoken with, Lieberman described her as a pragmatic and realistic leader who understands everybody does not share all of her ideological views. Lieberman, for one, said he disagrees with many of her social views.
Ohio’s Jewish community is getting lots of love from presidential surrogates this Columbus Day weekend.
U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman, the independent Connecticut Democrat and 2000 vice presidential nominee, is meeting with Jewish communal leaders over breakfast this morning outside of Cleveland to emphasize his belief that Republican John McCain is the bettered prepared candidate to be president.
Lieberman addressed about 200 McCain volunteers at a campaign call center northeast of Cleveland on Sunday.
Not far away at the Landerhaven banquet hall, which Ohio Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher called the epicenter of Ohio Jewish politics and at least for a short while the presidential campaign, former Middle East peace negotiator Dennis Ross was joined by Sen. Carl Levin, Rep. Jane Harman and Alan Solow, a prominent member of Chicago’s Jewish community, to reassure Jewish voters that Democrat Barack Obama is a strong friend of Israel and the Jewish community.
While Ross, Levin and Harman emphasized Obama’s commitment and understanding of the importance of Israel and nominating good candidates to the Supreme Court, it was Solow, chairman of Jewish Community Centers Association of North America but the least known of the group, who offered the best line of the night: “I like to say he’s going to be the first Jewish president of the United States.”
Solow, who met Obama in 2003 and traveled with the Illinois senator to Israel in 2006, said that Obama “gets (Israel) in his bones. He has it in his kishkes,” he said, using the Yiddish word for guts.
With three weeks to go until Election Day, Barack Obama’s campaign seems to be betting the kibbutz on three states: Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania.
“Those three are the three swing states with the largest Jewish population that really has the most likely chance of affecting the outcome,” Dan Shapiro, Obama’s national Jewish outreach coordinator told the Forward Sunday night.
With three weeks until Election Day, Barack Obama’s top Jewish outreach coordinators are taking up residence in Ohio and Florida, while the campaign has added staff to its Jewish outreach efforts in Pennsylvania and Virginia.
“I’m spending two of the next three weeks in Ohio as an indicator of how we’re deploying our resources,” Shapiro said before a rally near Cleveland at the Landerhaven banquet hall headlined by Dennis Ross, U.S. Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan, U.S. Rep. Jane Harman of California and Alan Solow, a Chicago Jewish leader and a longtime Obama friend.
While Shapiro will be based in Ohio, but will continue to travel to Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Chicago and Washington, D.C., Eric Lynn, Obama’s national Jewish vote director will be in Florida, where another staffer was also recently added.
Democrats also have a dedicated state staffer in Ohio for Jewish outreach and several people devoting significant time around Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati.
Shapiro allowed that the the Jewish vote could still play a critical role in Nevada or Colorado, two other battlegrounds Democrats hope to win.
U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman, D-Connecticut, returns to Pennsylvania Friday to plug Republicans John McCain and Sarah Palin in the Jewish community.
Here’s his itinerary:
Temple Beth Hillel at 10 a.m. 1001 Remington Rd. Wynnewood, PA 19096
B’rith Shalom House at 11:15 a.m. 3939 Conshohocken Avenue Philadelphia, PA 19131
Congregation Shaare Shamayim at 1:45 p.m. 9768 Verree Road Philadelphia, PA 19096
After the debate between Barack Obama and John McCain, Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs and Fox’s Sean Hannity played the guilt by association game.
Gibbs asked the Fox host whether he was anti-Semitic for having Andy Martin on his show.
The latest Republican attack line on Barack Obama involves a rabbi.
The Republican National Committee is circulating a news release this morning calling the Democratic presidential nominee to task for awarding $75,000 in grants to a social service agency lead by his wife’s cousin, Rabbi Capers Funnye.
The grants - $50,000 for adult literacy and counseling services and $25,000 for youth services – went to a group called Blue Gargoyle in 1999 and 2000, when Obama was an Illinois state senator, the Associated Press reports.
Funnye, Michelle Obama’s first cousin once removed, denied Obama or the group acted improperly in securing the grants.
“State Sen. Obama joined other legislators in securing funding for a well-established social services agency in his district that provided job training, employment counseling, and alternative education programs to approximately 1,200 Chicago residents each year,” campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt told AP.
But under the headline, “Obama’s Friends & Family Plan,” the RNC asked, “Why Does Barack Obama Decry The Politics Of Special Interest, But Show No Shame In Doing Favors For Friends & Family?”
There’s Jews for Obama, Rabbis for Obama, and now in the seemingly never-ending quest to address every possible demographic, there’s Jewish Moms for Obama. More specifically, it’s an Orthodox Jewish mom, who lived in Israel during the Second Intifada and the start of the Iraq War and now lives in Cambridge, Mass. with her husband and two kids.
Janette Hillis-Jaffe is the driving force behind the new http://www.JewsObamaIsrael.com Web site and video designed to make other Jews feel more comfortable about the Democratic presidential candidate.
Hillis-Jaffe, who says she was offended by the Swift Boating of Sen. John Kerry in 2004, wanted to do something to sway undecided voters, and conservative voters in particular. After researching Obama’s position on Israel and many of the rumors about his religion, Hillis-Jaffe wanted to set the record straight.
“I’m in a position that I may help people feel more comfortable with him,” she told the Forward.
In the video, Hillis-Jaffe talks directly to the camera while in a playground. She tells her own story of being on the frontlines of the war on terror.
“Two buses and two cafes were blown up within minutes of our home,” she says in the video.
If people don’t feel familiar or comfortable with Obama, who looks more trustworthy that “a nice Jewish mother with two kids?” she asks.
She says she wants “real peace and real security for Israel.”
Hillis-Jaffe wrote the script herself, but it was a collaborative effort. A professional documentary maker filmed and edited the 2-minute 29-second segment. A Web marketing expert helped do the promotional materials and Web site. And a journalist helped with a news release.
Congressman Mark Kirk’s pollster is calling a poll commissioned by the liberal Daily Kos blog flawed.
The poll of the district with a large bloc of Jewish voters north of Chicago showed Kirk, A Republican, leading Democrat Dan Seals 44 percent to 38 percent among 400 voters surveyed. The poll had a 5 percent margin of error.
McLaughlin & Associates argues the poll of Illinois’ 10th Congressional District by Research 2000 over-sampled voters age 18-29, Democrats and Independents, while under-sampling Republicans. The poll was also conducted Sept. 30-Oct. 1, which included Rosh Hashanah, when observant Jews would not take part. McLaughlin claims this hurt Kirk, but Kos claims Seals’ support would have been even stronger had those voters been sampled.
Here’s the memo:
Executive Summary: The ultra left-wing Web site Daily Kos commissioned a poll by Research 2000, which was conducted in Illinois’ 10th Congressional District from 9/30-10/1. The survey was flawed on three levels. First, the survey over-sampled voters age 18-29 while under-sampling voters 60+. Second, the survey over-sampled Democrats and Independents while under-sampling Republicans. Third, the survey was intentionally conducted on the Jewish High Holy Day of Rosh HaShanah that would exclude observant Jewish Democratic voters who lean more toward Kirk than average Democrats.
Skewed Age Sample: According to the database of actual registered voters, only 16 percent of voters are aged 18-29, while 30 percent are over age 60. The Research 2000 poll filled sample quotas differently, showing 19 percent of those surveyed between the ages of 18-29 and only 18 percent of voters over age 60. Mark Kirk has always done better among older voters. Skewing the poll by age skews it toward Seals.
Faulty Party Sample: Over more than two years of polling, our surveys found on average that the 10th District breaks down as follows: 34% Republican, 34% Democrat and 32% Independent. The Research 2000 poll filled sample quotas differently, showing 35% Democrats, 36% Independent and only 29% Republicans. Surveying more Democrats and less Republicans will obviously create an artificially closer race. In the 8 years that we have polled for Mark Kirk, we have never had Republicans among likely voters to be less than 33%.
Excluding Kirk-Leaning Jewish Voters: It is no surprise that DailyKos, which has come under attack by Democrats like Harold Ford Jr. and Lanny Davis for anti-Israel and anti-Semitic content, chose to conduct its poll on the Jewish High Holy Day of Rosh HaShanah. The 10th District is almost 20 percent Jewish – one of the larger Jewish districts in the nation. In addition to being disrespectful, the poll excluded observant Jewish voters who tend to vote for Mark Kirk more than average Democrats. In our last survey, Kirk did 25 percent better among Jewish voters than a typical Republican. By having fewer older voters, fewer Republicans and fewer ticket-splitting Jewish voters, DailyKos made sure the Democratic quota broke more for Dan Seals to give him an extra boost. And even with their biases, Mark Kirk still is leading.
Responding to McLaughlin & Associates’ analysis, Daily Kos founder Markos Moulitsas said that assertions that the site was anti-Semitic and the poll results biased .were completely unfounded. “It’s ridiculous that we would time a poll to exclude Jewish voters. If we we’d want to cook this poll we’d over-sample Jews” because they overwhelmingly vote for Democrats, he Moulitsas told the Forward.
“To take that next step and say that we’re anti-Semitic and polling on certain days to hurt Republican is absolutely absurd,” he said.
From the reaction, it’s obvious that Kirk’s campaign is feeling the heat, he added. “Nobody reacts this way to a poll that says they are winning,” Moulitsas said.
While Daily Kos commissioned the poll, Moulitsas maintained the polling firm, which is also used by some independent newspapers for polling, conducted the survey unfettered by the blog. He publishes the results regardless of the outcome. “We’ve run polls that show Democrats getting blown out of the water,” he said. Daily Kos also publishes the complete poll results so readers can review all the underlying data themselves.
Steve Sheffey, a Seals supporter and former president of CityPAC, a pro-Israel political action committee based in Chicago, also took issue with McLaughlin’s interpretation.
He called it unfair to label Daily Kos anti-Semitic because of the posts of a few individuals on the site that’s an open forum, where anybody can post his or her thoughts. Similarly, it would be unfair to label all Republicans or all Democrats as anti-Semitic because of the comments of a few individuals, he said.
Several former Israeli Defense Forces and Mossad officials are saying that the pro-Obama group Jewish Council for Education & Research used their comments out of context and made the Israeli officials sound as though they were endorsing or supporting the Democratic presidential candidate.
“It’s not only misleading, it was an interview about what the next president was going to have to deal with,” former deputy chief of General Staff Maj.-Gen. Uzi Dayan tells The Jerusalem Post.
Dayan and other Israelis were included on a recent JCRC video “Israeli General’s Speak.”
JCER is the group behind pro-Barack Obama sites [JewsVote.org[(http://jewsvote.org/) and The Great Schlep.
Weighing in on the recent elections in Austria, Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama called for tolerance.
Obama’s campaign released this statement on Sunday:
“I am very concerned about last Sunday’s election results in Austria, in which two openly xenophobic far-right parties won nearly thirty percent of the vote. Extremism, bigotry, and anti-Semitism offend our most deeply held transatlantic values and have no place in the 21st century.’
“As Austria’s voters and leaders review the election results and consider the way forward, I urge people of good will and courage in Austria to stand firmly for the principles of pluralism and tolerance that have, for the past 60 years, served Austria and Western Europe so well. Failure to do so would have serious consequences in Europe and beyond.”
Republicans will garner more support from the Jewish community than at any time since the Great Depression – surpassing the 39 percent of the Jewish vote that Ronald Reagan won in 1980, U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn., is predicting.
The 2000 Democratic vice presidential nominee who was on Republican John McCain’s shortlist for this year’s GOP ticket, made the prediction during a recent rally with Republican candidates in suburban Philadelphia, the Philadelphia Jewish Exponent reports.
Dueling ads by the Republican Jewish Coalition and the National Jewish Democratic Council that have been gaining a lot of attention in the Jewish press are getting some mainstream attention.
National Journal’s Ad Spotlight shines a light on this increasingly bitter fight for the Jewish vote.
“I’ll introduce you to some Jewish women,” offered Suzanne Kurtz, spokeswoman for the Republican Jewish Coalition.
It wasn’t exactly the typical sales pitch to attend a political event and there was no official matchmaker, yet it proved effective.
A joint vice presidential debate-watching party that RJC’s National Women’s Committee co-hosted with the Republican womens’ groups RightNOW! and Women Impacting the Nation (WIN) drew a crowd of a couple hundred Republicans including many Republican Jews to cheer Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and jeer Sen. Joseph Biden to a downtown Washington law firm.
The event attracted a crowd of mostly young women, but also a large number of men, who not surprisingly gave Palin stellar reviews for her debate performance.
“Sarah Palin is going to kick some tuckus,” Shelley Hymes, a member of all three organizations predicted during a reception prior to the debate.
Hymes was not disappointed in the Republican vice presidential nominee’s performance.
“I thought she was amazing,” she said immediately after the 90-minute debate ended. “She surpassed expectations.”
Thursday night’s event was one of a number of events planned by RJC’s women’s committee since GOP nominee John McCain selected Palin as his running mate.
Though analysts say Palin’s selection may scare off some Jews concerned about her lack of foreign policy experience, it’s been a boon to the women’s group.
“For groups like mine, this is an unprecedented time,” said Lisa Spies, the group’s executive director. Spies said she’s receiving 20 to 30 e-mails a day compared to three to four a week pre-Palin.
The group is planning other watch parties for upcoming debates and election night, but no major fundraising push is planned to take advantage of the enthusiasm.
“Right now I’m just excited to get people participating, to have people excited,” Spies said.
Like many Republicans, Jews and non-Jews, in the audience, Michael Berenhaus, an optometrist in nearby Bethesda, Md., worried before the debate about about how Palin would perform because of several shaky recent interviews with Katie Couric on CBS News and Charles Gibson of ABC News. So, he was relieved when she took strong and unwavering positions, and particularly her staunch support for Israel during the debate.
“I was nervous, but deep down I knew she could do it,” said Berenhaus, who added that “The difference between her and Democrats is she’s not going to change how she feels about Israel the next day when the Arabs protest.”
The National Jewish Democratic Council did not host a similar vice presidential debate watch party. But a spokesman said that the group doesn’t need to use promises of dating opportunities to lure guests to its events.
Pennsylvania, Ohio and Florida – all key traditional presidential battlegrounds and all traditional battlegrounds for the Jewish vote will likely be critical once again in this year’s contest between Democrat Barack Obama and Republican John McCain.
Two other states to watch though will be Virginia, where 1.3 percent of the population is Jewish, and Colorado, where 1.7 percent of the population is Jewish, Matt Berger of MSNBC/National Journal predicted on a conference call organized by the United Jewish Communities to discuss the election.
Critical to the election will be what Berger called the “Lieberman Democrats,” those voters like Sen. Joseph Lieberman, D-Connecticut, who place a premium on security issues. They may be wary of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin’s lack of experience, he said.
Younger Jewish voters, who are trending conservative in their votes and more open to supporting Republicans, are another critical demographic.
Finally, “Schlepers,” the elderly vote in Florida will be critical as usual in that state, Berger said. Many of these traditionally Democratic voters supported President Bush in 2004 and are looking for a reason to vote for Obama. Yet they remain hesitant to support him.
“They want a reason to vote Democratic and they are wary about Obama,” Berger said. “They need to be convinced that it is OK to vote Obama.” Jewish Democratic leaders have predicted that Obama will do as well or better than 2004 Democratic nominee John Kerry did. But Berger was skeptical that Obama will draw the 75 percent of Jewish support that exit polls showed voted for Kerry.
Days after telling a group of Jewish Democratic leaders that “Anybody toting guns and stripping moose don’t care too much about what they do with Jews and blacks,” Florida Congressman Alcee Hastings is apologizing for his not so smart comments about Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin during last week’s National Jewish Democratic Council’s Washington conference.
“I regret the comments I made last Tuesday that were not smart and certainly not relevant to hunters or sportsmen,” Hastings said in a statement.
Of course, Hastings, who is African American, isn’t completely apologetic. As inarticulate as he might have been, “The point I made, and will continue to make, is that the policies and priorities of a McCain-Palin administration would be anathema to most African Americans and Jews,” he said. “I regret that I was not clearer and apologize to Governor Palin, my host where I was speaking, and those who my comments may have offended.”
If the Northminster Church that the Rev. C. Welton Gaddy leads in Monroe, La. were to endorse a presidential candidate, the decision would cause a deep and irreparable rift within the Baptist congregation.
Instead of being known for their religious denomination or community works, churches, synagogues and mosques like Northminster would become Red, Blue and divided just like many other institutions where politics has been allowed to invade.
“If we allow partisan politics in houses of worship, you would see a reconfiguration of religion in the landscape of America,” said Gaddy, the president of the Interfaith Alliance. “We would see houses of worship identified not based on denomination but based on the candidates they endorsed over the years.”
“It hurts the nature of religion and the nation in that way, plus it robs individuals and families of the basic resource for understanding helpfulness, therapy, encouragement, nurture unaffected by partisan political divisions,” Gaddy told the Forward.
It’s too soon to tell what the impact will be of Sunday’s “Pulpit Freedom Sunday” organized by the Alliance Defense Fund to challenge the Internal Revenue Service’s rules prohibiting political endorsements from the pulpit. The effort drew the participation of 33 pastors in more than 20 states.
The conservative group based in Arizona promised to release the names of churches and pastors participating before Sunday, but changed its tune late last week. A spokesman, citing concerns about potential protests and interruptions, said names of participants would not be released ahead of time after some names leaked. ADF still hadn’t released a list as of Monday afternoon.
Some clergy offered explicit endorsements, while others were more subtle, according to reports.
Here’s the Wall Street Journal wrap up after visiting several churches. A pastor in Minnesota endorsed John McCain. Meanwhile, the L.A. Times reports that The Rev. Wiley S. Drake urged parishioners to vote for him and Independent candidate Alan Keyes.
Democrat Barack Obama enjoys a nearly 2-1 advantage among Jewish voters over Republican John McCain, yet his support continues to lag well-behind historical levels that Democrats have enjoyed from the Jewish community, according to a new survey of Jewish voters.
The American Jewish Committee’s 2008 Annual Survey of American Jewish Opinion shows Obama leading McCain 57 percent to 30 percent. Another 13 percent of the 914 self-identifying Jewish respondents surveyed said they were undecided. Exit polls showed that John Kerry received 76 percent of the Jewish vote in 2004.
The poll is the latest evidence that Obama continues to struggle winning over Jewish voters despite the optimism expressed by campaign aides and members of the National Jewish Democratic Council at the organization’s Washington conference this week.
The telephone survey by Synovate was conducted by Sept. 8-21. It has a 3 percent margin of error.
Nearly three quarters of those surveyed approved of Obama’s selection of Delaware Senator Joseph Biden as his running mate. Fifty-four percent of respondents disapproved of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, McCain’s choice for vice president.
Democrats have viewed the Palin selection as good news because they say many Jewish voters are turned off by her lack of foreign policy credentials and lack of prior statements about Israel.
More than half of those surveyed – 54 percent – said they want to hear the candidates talk more about the economy. Only 3 percent cites Israel as the issue they want to hear discussed more.
By overwhelming margins, respondents predicted Democrats would do a better job addressing terrorism, strengthening the economy, supporting Israel, working towards energy independence, and the Iraq war.
Friday night’s first presidential debate between Barack Obama and John McCain is still on. But it comes after sunset, posing a problem for observant Jews, who won’t be able to watch it.
Obama wants the television networks to re-air the debate, which will focus on foreign policy issues, on Saturday night.
He sent the following letter to the Commission on Presidential Debates:
The Honorable Frank J. Fahrenkopf, Jr. The Honorable Paul G. Kirk, Jr. Commission on Presidential Debates 1200 New Hampshire Ave NW Washington, DC 20036
Dear Mr. Fahrenkopf and Mr. Kirk:
Joe Biden and I are looking forward to participating in the upcoming debates, and I appreciate the hard work you and your team have put forth to bring them about. They promise to be some of the best opportunities for the voters to assess the candidates and their views prior to Election Day.
I want to raise one issue, and ask for your assistance. Due to the schedule set by the Commission and presented to the campaigns, the first debate falls on Friday night after the Jewish Sabbath has begun. Unfortunately, that means many Jewish Americans will not have the opportunity to watch the debate live. Because I know there is strong interest in this debate in the Jewish community, and to be as inclusive as possible, I ask for the Commission’s help in encouraging the television networks covering the debate to rebroadcast it on Saturday night after the Sabbath has concluded.
Jewish voters unsure whether to cast their vote for Barack Obama or John McCain, might want to think about this little bit of advice U.S. Representative Alcee Hastings offered about Sarah Palin, the Republican vice presidential candidate:
“If Sarah Palin isn’t enough of a reason for you to get over whatever your problem is with Barack Obama, then you damn well had better pay attention,” the Florida congressman said during a National Jewish Democratic Council panel.
“Anybody toting guns and stripping moose don’t care too much about what they do with Jews and blacks. So, you just think this through,” Hastings said.
Congressman Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., later told the same group that Jesus was “a great Democrat,” according to CNN.
The Republican Jewish Coalition, which has been accused of its own share of gross distortions, is denouncing Hastings’ comments as “the worst kind of politics.”
“Hastings’ unconscionable remarks do nothing but sow seeds of fear and divide people,” said RJC Executive Director Matt Brooks in a statement. “There should be no place in our country for this sort of political discourse. We can constructively disagree on the issues without denigrating others.”
He also said Cohen’s remark “inappropriate, offensive and should be repudiated.”
Orthodox Jews represent an estimated 10 percent to 11 percent of the American Jewish population. They also represent the fastest growing segment of the American Jewish community and overwhelmingly vote for Republican presidential candidates. They still often vote for Democratic House and Senate candidates.
That wasn’t always the case. Orthodox Jews used to be more open to Democratic candidates.
With demographic estimates and that history in mind, Democrats hope to persuade Orthodox Jews to vote Democratic again – or at least remain open to the possibility.
“It at times might seem like an oxymoron – Orthodox Jews in the Democratic Party,” said Jeff Wice, an activist involved in the National Jewish Democratic Council. He moderated a panel discussion Wednesday at the organization’s Washington conference on what Democrats can do to reach out to Orthodox voters.
“Will this group be the Log Cabin Democrats?” he joked in a reference to Log Cabin Republicans, the gay rights group that is often at the fringe’s of its party’s politics.
Panelists, including Rabbi Menachem Genack of the Orthodox Union, pollster Mark Mellman, and Rabbi Yeruchim Silber of the Metropolitan Jewish Health System, predicted that Democrats have a good case to make to Orthodox voters. But they predicted it will be no quick fix.
Silber said not much can probably be done in the remaining 40 or so days until the election. He called for Democrats to create a permanent Orthodox coordinator to build relationships for the 2012 presidential election and beyond.
“Bring them back home to the party they felt comfortable in,” he said.
They may have their work cut out for them. The panel discussion drew an audience of fewer than 30 people. At least one-fifth of those in attendance were reporters or NJDC staff.