Forward Thinking

Florida Fixation Warps Emphasis on Israel

By Liam Hoare

  • Print
  • Share Share
getty images
Mitt Romney

One of the inescapable narratives of the 2012 presidential election has been, and will continue to be, Mitt Romney’s attempts to woo a slice of Jewish voters away from the Democratic ticket.

Except, of course, neither Romney nor President Barack Obama are wooing the entirety of American Jewry. Because the presidential election is determined by the Electoral College, the candidates are effectively fighting an election in each of 50 states and Washington D.C. The Jewish vote is mostly concentrated in states like New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, and Maryland that are considered safe Democratic states, and therefore not worth fighting over.

The elephant in the room, of course, is Florida.

There are around 640,000 Jews in Florida, or about 3.4% of the state’s population. That’s a big bloc, especially since Florida has 29 electoral votes, which Romney virtually must win if he is to unseat Obama.

Romney has already spent time in St. Augustine and Miami this month, while Rep. Paul Ryan held a victory event in The Villages, north of Orlando. But stumping in Florida has been made all the more difficult since Ryan has joined the ticket because of his controversial proposals to reform Medicare, which is anathema to many senior citizens, Jewish and non-Jewish alike.

Moreover, it is impossible to win over Jewish voters on wedge social issues of the sort Republicans have used successfully in the past with other constituencies. More tahn 93% of American Jews, for example, believe abortion should be legal in all or most cases and 81% support the notion of same-sex marriage.

Thus, talk inevitably turns toward Israel, an issue which Republicans believe can be used to raise doubts about Obama in the eyes of those who supported him in 2008. Consequently, the debate in Florida, and in turn nationwide, regarding Israel has become distorted, at once more strident, more narrow, and more banal.

The Romney campaign has repeatedly attacked Obama for having “thrown Israel under the bus.” In a recent overture to Jewish voters, his campaign released an ad asking, “Who shares your values?”, chastising Obama for having never visited Israel as president and refusing to recognise Jerusalem as its capital. On that theme, William Kristol’s Emergency Committee for Israel made an ad buy in Florida which promised Jewish voters, “Next year, President Romney in Jerusalem, the capital of Israel.”

And with the race in Florida a dead heat at present, the rhetoric on both sides of the political divide in unlikely to advance the dialogue on Israel or the Palestinian question as November nears. Neither camp, for example, wishes to discuss the future of the settlement enterprise, even as the Israeli government prepares for a possible showdown with the residents of Migron. And, though 90% of American Jews see the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a major problem for Israel and 53% broadly speaking support the creation of a Palestinian state, pursuit of and discussions over the two-state solution have gone cold.

It is tempting to argue that Florida does the Jewish community a service, by forcing both campaigns to discuss these issues like Israel at all. But given the uninspiring and occasionally tasteless nature of the ongoing debate, Jews across the nation as a whole are ill-served by the warping effect of the Electoral College and both campaigns’ fixation with Florida, the state where the sawgrass meets the sky.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: jewish, florida, israel, electoral college

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • Is pot kosher for Passover. The rabbis say no, especially for Ashkenazi Jews. And it doesn't matter if its the unofficial Pot Day of April 20.
  • A Ukrainian rabbi says he thinks the leaflets ordering Jews in restive Donetsk to 'register' were a hoax. But the disturbing story still won't die.
  • Some snacks to help you get through the second half of Passover.
  • You wouldn't think that a Soviet-Jewish immigrant would find much in common with Gabriel Garcia Marquez. But the famed novelist once helped one man find his first love. http://jd.fo/f3JiS
  • Can you relate?
  • The Forverts' "Bintel Brief" advice column ran for more than 65 years. Now it's getting a second life — as a cartoon.
  • Half of this Hillel's members believe Jesus was the Messiah.
  • Vinyl isn't just for hipsters and hippies. Israeli photographer Eilan Paz documents the most astonishing record collections from around the world:http://jd.fo/g3IyM
  • Could Spider-Man be Jewish? Andrew Garfield thinks so.
  • Most tasteless video ever? A new video shows Jesus Christ dying at Auschwitz.
  • "It’s the smell that hits me first — musty, almost sweet, emanating from the green felt that cradles each piece of silver cutlery in its own place." Only one week left to submit! Tell us the story of your family's Jewish heirloom.
  • Mazel tov to Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mezvinsky!
  • If it's true, it's pretty terrifying news.
  • “My mom went to cook at the White House and all I got was this tiny piece of leftover raspberry ganache."
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.