Forward Thinking

Can't Avoid Obama? Here's Why.

By Nathan Guttman

If Jewish voters have the feeling they cannot avoid the Democratic message this election cycle, it may have to do with a new group formed this summer that has been specifically targeting the media on Jewish voters issues.

The Jewish media hub, as founders, Washington public relations consultants Steve Rabinowitz and Matt Dorf refer to their initiative, is both an attempt to reach out to Jewish voters as it is an acknowledgement that existing Democratic institutions have, for most, ignored the Jewish constituency, seen largely as being a safe demography.

“We couldn’t be sure what the campaign and the NJDC will do, so we decided to do it on our own,” said Rabinowitz, referring to the Obama campaign and to the National Jewish Democratic Council. “Over the years,” he added, “Democrats have done very little to court the Jewish vote.”

During this elections cycle, the burden fell on the shoulders of Ira Forman, the Obama campaign’s Jewish outreach director and on the NJDC, but both worked with very limited staff and funds.

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The Forward's Election Poll: Jewish Issues

By Forward Staff

What do you think about the presidential election? We want to hear your opinions on a number of topics, so answer today’s question. We’ll have a new question waiting for you each night this week and a final roundup blog post on Friday.

In our second question, we asked readers which issues matter most to them in the upcoming election. Respondents ranked health care and the economy as the issues that were most important to them. Lagging behind in third place was Israel.

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The Forward's Election Poll: The Big Issues

By Forward Staff

What do you think about the presidential election? We want to hear your opinions on a number of topics, so answer today’s question and then check back Wednesday evening for the results. We’ll have a new question waiting for you each night this week and a final roundup blog post on Friday.

Last night we asked for your take on the candidates’ views on the Israel/Iran conflict as they expressed them during the final debate. Twenty-one percent of respondents completely agreed with Governor Romney’s stance and 35% completely agreed with President Obama’s.

How much do these issues affect your vote in the election?

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Obama Won by Talking Like a Republican

By Jay Michaelson

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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.

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The Forward's Election Poll: The Debate

By Forward Staff

What do you think about the presidential election? For the next three days, we want to hear your opinions on a number of topics. First up, the latest presidential debate. Answer these two questions now, then check back Tuesday evening for the results. We’ll have a new question waiting for you each night this week and a final roundup blog post on Friday.

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Albright Gives Romney a C in Foreign Policy

By Nathan Guttman

Getty Images

Republican candidate Mitt Romney came out swinging Monday at President Obama’s foreign policy, promising to end any “daylight” between the United States and Israel and a tough stance toward Iran.

Speaking at the Virginia Military Institute, Romney sought to present Obama’s Middle East policy and his response to the Arab Spring as lacking leadership.

As in previous foreign policy addresses, Romney spent time criticizing Obama for his tense relationship with Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu. “The relationship between the President of the United States and the Prime Minister of Israel, our closest ally in the region, has suffered great strains,” Romney said. “The President explicitly stated that his goal was to put ‘daylight’ between the United States and Israel. And he has succeeded.” Romney argued that this daylight has “emboldened our mutual adversaries, especially Iran.” He promised that if elected president “the world will never see any daylight between our two nations.”

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Looks Like It's Mitt

By Gal Beckerman

getty images

So if there was one overwhelming message out of New Hampshire tonight — after watching the 2nd and 3rd and 4th and 5th runners up pathetically grasping to put a positive spin on their losses (Huntsman: “Third place is a ticket to ride!”) — it was that Mitt Romney is looking pretty inevitable.

You’ll hear that from everyone this evening. And I don’t really have anything new to add to this blindingly obvious reality.

That being said, it looks like South Carolina is set to play the role it has in primaries past — as the very last stand. Gingrich is going to continue his Sheldon Adelson-fueled attacks on Romney over his years at Bain Capital; Santorum will try to stick a fork in Perry and become the social conservative candidate going forward; Paul will continues collecting his delegates so that he can imprint his message on the party’s platform.

But from the vantage point of tonight, Romney looks set to keep rolling along. And from our narrowly parochial view of things here, that means one thing for the Jews: By Florida, your grandparents’ vote won’t really matter.

By the time Jews get to weigh in as a community — though, admittedly, that elderly, reflexively pro-Israel part of the community that is assumed to be mad at Obama — it looks like it will all be wrapped up for Mr. Inevitability.

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No Contest for Tiny New Hampshire Jewish Vote

By Josh Nathan-Kazis

getty images
Mitt Romney

Republicans talked tough on Iran in the lead-up to today’s New Hampshire primary, but it wasn’t Jewish voters they were hoping to impress.

At the January 7 Republican presidential debate, Rick Santorum called Iran “the most pressing issue we deal with today.” Frontrunner Mitt Romney accused President Obama of failing to demonstrate to the Iranians a willingness to use military force to prevent them from building a nuclear arsenal.

Their strong words may appeal to some Jewish Republicans, but Republican Jews aren’t their main targets. That’s because there aren’t many Jews in New Hampshire at all, let alone Jewish Republicans.

And the candidates don’t seem to be going out of their way to appeal to the few Jewish voters as they campaign for the January 10 New Hampshire primaries, the first actual traditional secret ballot votes in the 2012 cycle.

“I haven’t heard of one [Republican campaign] event in New Hampshire that was specifically geared to the Jewish community,” said Jeff Fladen, the executive director of the Jewish Federation of New Hampshire. “Not one.”

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Eight Votes Between Them

By Gal Beckerman

getty images
Mitt Romney

So where are we now that the decidedly low-tech process known as the Iowa caucuses is completed, all the little slips of paper have been counted and Mitt Romney was ahead by just eight votes?

I can think of three basic takeaways and they coincide with the three candidates who have emerged last night as the frontrunners in this race.

1) Mitt Romney: He still seems like Mr. Inevitable. But despite eking out the narrowest win in U.S. political history, the results actually seem to have exposed his weakness. He can’t seem to break a ceiling of around 25%, which is pretty much what he got last go around in Iowa when he didn’t have the frontrunner aura about him. What this means going past New Hampshire (a state he is sure to win) is hard yet to tell. On the face of it it reinforces the idea that the Republican Party might have a nominee that it’s base just isn’t that excited about.

2) Rick Santorum: We are going to be seeing more of the sweater vest, it seems. Seemingly out nowhere, Santorum has surged and came within a whisker of winning. He is really the biggest winner of the night, if only because expectations for him were so much lower. And he also gets to claim the mantel of the social conservative candidate, possibly soaking up the support that was spread between him, Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann.

3) Ron Paul: He didn’t win the caucuses, which would have really caused Republicans to have to stop and take stock of what his popularity means for the state of the party. But he’s not going away either, nor is the problematic nature of his views. Will he continue to have enough support that the other candidates have to adopt some of his isolationism?

All of this should force Republican Jews to ask themselves three questions:

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GOP Candidates Take Hard Line on Iran

By Josh Nathan-Kazis

getty images
Ron Paul

With Iowa’s caucuses set for tonight, Republican hopefuls are doubling down on their rhetoric on the threat posed by Iran’s nuclear ambitions in an apparent effort to distance themselves from GOP candidate Ron Paul.

Front-runner Mitt Romney, dark horse Michele Bachmann, and the late-surging Rick Santorum all promised a readiness to launch military strikes on Iran if sanctions failed to stifle the country’s alleged nuclear program.

Their threats are in stark contrast to the position of Paul, who is close to the lead in most Iowa polls. Paul opposes a military strike on Iran, telling voters January 30 that the Iranians “don’t threaten our national security.”

“The reason that they’re talking about it now is that the vast majority of Republican primary voters and caucus voters are very passionate about this issue,” Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi of The Israel Project told the Forward. “It’s become a real litmus test and a real values tests, and there is real difference between the candidates.”

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What Would Barack Do?

By Josh Nathan-Kazis

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President Barack Obama

Jewish Democrats don’t have a say in who wins tonight’s Iowa’s Republican caucuses. But they do have opinions about which candidate President Obama should be pulling for.

Most hope an arch-conservative like Rick Santorum, Michele Bachmann or Rick Perry takes the key contest, beating frontrunner Mitt Romney and dark horse Ron Paul.

If one of the right-wingers go on to win the nomination, he or she would presumably repel independents in the general election, leading to an easier path to reelection for Obama.

“The Jews want Obama, so presumably we want whoever Obama could most easily beat,” said Steve Rabinowitz, president of Rabinowitz/Dorf Communications and a Democratic publicist. “Unless that person could actually get elected.”

Even if one of the longshots does well enough to force Romney into a tough primary fight, it might soften him up for a contest with Obama in the fall, analysts say.

“Obama supporters will be praying for [an] extreme right conservative victory in Iowa,” centrist Democratic strategist Hank Sheinkopf wrote in an email.

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'I'm Not Ashamed To Say That I'm a Jew...'

By Gal Beckerman

Getty Images

We too were taken aback by Rick Perry’s new campaign video — the swagger, the Christian language, the denigration of gays, and America described as feminine with Perry posing as its shining defender.

He was, for certain, trying to appeal to evangelical voters, and perhaps he’ll be releasing the Jewish version of the ad in a few days. But until he does, let’s be thankful for Rabbi Jason Miller who has given us a taste of what it might look like:

To see the original Perry ad, it’s after the jump.

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Obama Trumpets Pro-Israel Record

By Josh Nathan-Kazis

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President Barack Obama

President Barack Obama reasserted his administration’s support for Israel to a group of donors convened by one of America’s most influential Jewish fundraisers in Manhattan Tuesday night.

“I try not to pat myself too much on the back, but this administration has done more in terms of the security of the state of Israel than any previous administration,” Obama told a small audience at the home of Jack Rosen, chair of the American Council for World Jewry, and of the American Jewish Congress, a group that has been mostly inactive since last year.

While introducing Obama, Rosen referred to “concerns” among American Jews about the relationship between Israel and the United States, an Associated Press report said.

In his address, Obama cited intelligence cooperation and American support for Israel’s anti-missile defense system, called Iron Dome, as representative of his administration’s security support for Israel.

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Perry Does Letterman With 'Top 10 Excuses'

By J.J. Goldberg

getty images
Rick Perry

David Letterman just presented an amazing Top Ten list: “Top Ten Rick Perry Excuses,” presented by Texas Governor Rick Perry (for real). He actually did a pretty good job - got some outright laughs, hammed it up just right. If anything could save his candidacy, this might have been it.

No. 10: Actually, there were three reasons I messed up last night. One, the nerves. Two, the headache. And three – uh – um - oops.

No. 9: I don’t know what you’re talking about. I think things went well.

No. 8: Hey, I was up late last night watching Dancing With the Stars.

No. 7: I thought the debate was tonight.

No. 6: Hey, listen – you try concentrating with Mitt Romney smiling at you. That is one handsome dude.

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