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.
It’s a little early for Barack Obama’s campaign to breath a sigh of relief and say a few Amens, but two new polls of Jewish voters offer some good news for the Democratic presidential nominee.
An analysis by Gallup based on its daily tracking poll and interviews with more than 500 Jewish voters shows that Jewish voters have grown much more comfortable with Obama.
It found that 74 percent of Jewish voters now support Obama. That’s a tad lower than what exit polls showed John Kerry and Al Gore won in 2004 and 2000, but it’s shows huge gains for Obama in the last few months.
A Quinnipiac University poll of 1,433 Florida voters shows Obama leading Republican John McCain by a 77 percent to 20 percent margin among Jewish voters included in a survey.
One note of caution in the Q-Poll numbers – the Jewish sample survey carries a whopping 10.5 percent margin of error because of the small sample of Jews in the larger survey, which had a 2.6 percent margin of error. Given their methodology, Quinnipiac pollsters, however, believe the number is probably pretty close to accurate despite the large potential margin of error.
Jewish support for Obama has risen gradually from the low 60 percent range in June and July to 66 percent in August, 69 percent in September, and now 74 percent, according to Gallup.
With just under two weeks until the Nov. 4 election, “The current proportion of U.S. Jews backing Obama is identical to the level of support the Democratic ticket of John Kerry and John Edwards received in the 2004 presidential election (74%),” and “It is only slightly lower than what Al Gore and Joe Lieberman received in 2000 (80%) – when the first Jewish American appeared on the presidential ticket of a major party,” according to Gallup.
And while there has been much concern about a generational divide and the potential of bigotry that could keep some older Jews from supporting Obama, or cause them to vote for Republican John McCain, Gallup reports that “support for Obama is a bit higher among older Jews than among Jews younger than 55.”
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.
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.
The RJC recycles quotes from Hillary Rodham Clinton (March 2008), John Kerry (April 2004) and Chuck Schumer (November 2003).
But what’s sure to elicit an interesting responses at the NJDC conference is a quote by NJDC Executive Director Ira Forman.
“I have to take my hat off to [McCain] for putting principle in front of politics… I wish there were more John McCains,” Forman is quoted as saying.
Of course, RJC had to go way back to an Oct. 1, 1999 JTA story to find such a kind comment.
We couldn’t find the story RJC cites. Forman has characterized the GOP ad campaign as a bunch of smears.
RJC responded to a request for additional information noting that “It’s a JTA story.” But a spokesperson has not provided a copy of the story yet.
UPDATE: Forman says he doesn’t remember the quote, which he’s been informed came in the context of praising McCain for urging that Patrick Buchanan be kicked out of the Republican Party for his fringe views.
The important thing, according to Forman, is that “the four people that are quoted there, me, Hillary, Kerry and Schumer, we all agree on one thing – John McCain is not the best person for president. Barack Obama is the best.”
Forman did say that he still wishes there were more John McCains. Of course, it came in the context of his noting that “the [John McCain] who exists today bears no resemblance to the one from 1999.”
Forman also enjoyed the irony of the latest RJC ad highlighting his praise of McCain for criticizing Buchanan. Less than a week ago, RJC released an ad that highlighted Buchanan’s comments as it sought to draw a connection with Obama.
Here are the rest of the quotes:
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