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.
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.