Hello! and welcome to JewsChoose 2008. My name is Raphael Sonenshein (although I go by Raphe). I’m a professor of political science at Cal State Fullerton, and a regular columnist for The Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles.
The Wisconsin results are coming in now, and it looks like yet another victory for Obama. That means it’s almost time for the Jewish test to begin! This is a really tough moment for a Democratic candidate on a roll. John McCain is aiming most of his attacks at Obama.
Obama has already faced the viral emails around the Jewish community claiming all sorts of things about him, and it will only get worse. We’ll hear that his middle name is Hussein (true); that he is a radical Muslim (false on both counts); and plenty of other stuff. Even well informed Jewish voters can be shaken by these things. Heck, there was a time back in 1969 when many Los Angeles Jewish voters were briefly persuaded that Tom Bradley was a black militant!
Obama’s bona fides have been vouched for among Jews, by among others, the conservative New York Sun. I hope he has advisors who can avoid the traps that can hurt a relatively unknown candidate. Remember when John Kerry announced that he would send the team of Jimmy Carter and James Baker to the Middle East? That did not go over well with Jewish voters. The best defense is very clear and proactive communication to the Jewish community about Israel, anti-Semitism, and other key concerns, like in this conference call Obama made to Jewish journalists.
Right now, Obama’s main concern is not the Jewish vote, because his more immediate issue is how to keep taking Latino voters from Hillary Clinton. He can put away the nomination by winning Texas, the last state left with a large Latino population.
But he’ll have to keep a close eye on the Jewish community in the meantime.