WSJ: GOP Makes Last Push for Jewish Voters

Thursday, November 1, 2012
By: Alicia Mundy

As the election looms, the eternal optimists of the Republican Jewish Coalition are making one last push into traditional Democratic strongholds of Jewish American voters in key battleground states, trying to bring in new support for presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

“The crowds are bigger this time than four years ago, and they include independents and democrats who voted for [President Barack] Obama,” said Ari Fleischer, a member of the RJC’s board and former press secretary to President George W. Bush.

Mr. Fleischer and other RJC leaders, as well as former Minn. Sen. Norm Coleman, were on their way Wednesday from a rally in Detroit to Boca Raton, Fla., part of a nine-city five-day tour that will end Thursday night in Philadelphia.

Mr. Fleischer acknowledged that every presidential election GOP Jewish leaders vow to produce better than 20-25% for Republicans, and don’t really move the numbers. But he said, this is a different time and a “more receptive environment” to make small inroads where it counts.

Jewish Democrats are skeptical.

“Republicans have been making these claims since 1980. There’s always some “unique” reason, some “unique moment” in time” for Jews to embrace Republicans, they say,” said David A. Harris, president of the National Jewish Democratic Council.

“If you went to a doctor every four years, and he gave you the same diagnosis every time, and he was wrong, would you go back?” asked Mr. Harris. That is what is happening with the Republican Jewish Coalition again, he said.

“We have data points. Barack Obama is doing better now among Jewish voters against Mitt Romney than he did in at this time in 2008 against John McCain.”

That year, Mr. Obama took about 75 % of the Jewish vote.

But the RJC and Mr. Fleischer say they aren’t looking for a surge. A “slight Jewish swing” could make the difference in Florida, Pennsylvania and Ohio, said Mr. Fleischer. The RJC began a $6.5 million campaign in those states and a few other specific locales a few months ago, and it has already spent that amount on TV ads, said Mr. Fleischer.

Over the past 18 months, the RJC has created the “first proprietary Jewish voters lists” in several swing states, enabling pinpoint telemarketing and micro-targeting, and setting up an invaluable template for the next national elections, said executive director Matt Brooks.

The RJC and its volunteers have made 450,000 calls to Jewish households and visited over 100,000 homes in places such as Shaker Heights outside Cleveland, and neighborhoods in suburban Miami. Mr. Brooks said that a 1% shift to Mr. Romney in such areas could be enough to have an impact on the swing state’s final numbers.

For example, RJC leaders say that Mr. Romney’s current slight lead in Florida could rest on the Jewish vote, because although only 6% of Florida’s population is Jewish, their voter turnout represents a higher percentage of the state’s electorate.

The RJC has run an extensive TV campaign there, unveiling a new ad Wednesday in Florida, pitched to elderly Jewish Americans, using the former head of Democrats Abroad-Israel, Bryna Franklin.

It’s the last ad in the RJC’s “My Buyer’s Remorse” campaign involving “disappointed” Democrats. Ms. Bryna, 80 years old, has never voted for a Republican for president until now, according to the RJC web site. In the ad, she cites concerns about the U.S. support for Israel under Mr. Obama. “My Message to American Jews is to join me… switch sides and vote for Mitt Romney for president,” she says.

The National Jewish Democratic Council countered with its own pro-Obama video on Wednesday, featuring Israel’s Defense Minister Ehud Barak and former U.S. AmbassadorDennis Ross. The video praises the Obama administration’s support for Israel’s security.


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