Forward Thinking

Obama Won by Talking Like a Republican

By Jay Michaelson

  • Print
  • Share Share
getty images

This late in the campaign, everything is about swing states – and the foreign policy debate was largely about Florida, where moderate Jews could well decide who gets the state’s 29 electoral votes.

On those grounds, on the basis of issues important to Florida Jews, President Obama won this debate, but in a bizarre, looking-glass sort of way in which the candidates seemingly exchanged personalities. Mitt Romney sounded like Obama: reasonable, measured, and knowledgeable about foreign policy. Barack Obama sounded like Romney: making strong rhetorical points with little attention to detail.

On Israel, for example, it was Obama who struck first, citing his support of the Iron Dome defense system, and using the phrase “stand with Israel” numerous times. Romney, meanwhile, sounded like a Democrat: arguing for peace talks with the Palestinians, and a measured approach to Iran.

So too on the emotional issues likely to resonate with the bubbes and zaydes of Palm Beach County. Could anyone have predicted that President Obama would invoke the holocaust in his discussion of the State of Israel? And yet that’s what he did, noting that on his trip to Israel, he visited Yad Vashem (the holocaust memorial, he explained to the non-Jewish voters who happened to be watching the debate too), whereas Romney went to fundraisers.

But that’s not all – this debate was often a lesson in Israeli geography. Obama visited Sderot. Romney visited Hertzliya. What’s next: Obama prefers Sima’s meorav Yerushalmi, but Romney likes Sami’s. At times it was hard to tell whether this was a presidential debate or an itinerary from Birthright Israel.

Incidentally, the contrast between Sderot and Hertzliya was more apt than most viewers would understand. Sderot, which Obama visited, is a working class community of people of color. If it were an American town, it would be Democrat country. Hertzliya is an affluent, mostly Ashkenazi suburb of Tel Aviv – more Romney’s base than Obama’s.

But I digress. (Anyway, in Israel, Sephardim tend to vote more conservatively than Ashkenazim).

On substantive issues, the two candidates were in heated agreement. Although Romney faulted Obama’s leadership, there was little daylight between the two on Syria, Iran, Egypt, or Libya. Obama’s best moment was his jab about horses and bayonets – and its tacit suggestion that Romney is not ready to lead. Romney’s best moment was his persuasive litany of how American influence has waned around the world. (His worst? Saying that Syria is “Iran’s route to the sea.” Take a look at this image the Democratic Party sent around shortly afterwards. Oops.)

Those two snapshots illustrate how Obama won this debate … by speaking like a Republican.

Romney presented himself as persuasive and competent. But Obama went for the jugular. He spoke so directly to Jewish concerns that he can fairly be accused of pandering to them.

Then again, that Holocaust story could conceivably win him the election.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: the jewish vote 2 2012, republican, presidential debate, jewish vote 2012, election, democratic, barack obama, Mitt Romney, Jewish, Israel

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!
  • What's it like to be Chagall's granddaughter?
  • 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.
  • 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.