Jewish Democrats are sounding off alarms over the rising popularity that Republican libertarian Ron Paul is gaining within his party. Paul — that’s longtime representative from Texas Ron Paul, not his son Rand, a freshman senator from Kentucky — won the Conservative Political Action Conference straw poll last week, with 30% voting for him as the Republican they’d like to see nominated to run for president in 2012. He came in ahead of former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. Two other leading potential candidates, former governors Sarah Palin and Mike Huckabee, did not attend the CPAC conference in Washington.
The National Jewish Democratic Council issued a statement blasting the choice of Paul and arguing that he has been at odds with the Jewish community on many key issues including aid to Israel.
Ron Paul has also accused the pro-Israel lobby AIPAC of pushing for the Iraq war.
“The results of the CPAC straw poll send a clear message: the Republican Party and the conservative movement continue to grow increasingly out of touch with the values of the American Jewish community,” argued NJDC’s president and CEO David Harris. Jewish Democrats have also taken issue with Paul’s son, Rand, who has spoken out against U.S. aid to Israel, ever since he joined the Senate last month.
But is there really room for fear that Republicans are turning their backs on support for Israel (or that the Paul family is taking over the party?)
Not necessarily, at least not if one looks at the new poll released Monday by The Israel Project. The poll shows that 56% of Republicans believe U.S. aid to Israel should continue while only 35% think America should stop supporting Israel financially. Democrats, on the other hand, are split on the issue, with 43% answering that they believe aid to Israel should be cut and 42% saying it should continue.
How significant is the CPAC poll, anyway? (According to the Times, fewer than 4,000 people voted.) Just take a look at the Republicans who won in previous years: In 2006 it was then-Senator George Allen of Virginia who shortly after lost his seat; in 2007 CPAC members put Mitt Romney, Rudy Giuliani and Sam Brownback in top places. None of them did very well in the primaries. In 2010 it was Ron Paul who came out at the top of the list, just like this year, making him a favorite of the CPAC crowd but not necessarily a leading force in the Republican Party.