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How many Jewish votes can Romney get?‎

by Shmuel Rosner

May 21, 2012 | 2:34 pm

Mitt Romney speaking at the Republican Jewish Coalition's 2012 Republican Presidential Candidates Forum in Washington, December 2011. (Photo: Reuters)

There are the truisms we already know: Jews is news and all its identical twins. ‎And there’s the fact that no matter how tiny the Jewish community might be – ‎‎1.5-2% of the population – the battle for Jewish votes is extensively reported ‎and analyzed. And there’s also the fact that for Jewish votes to be of any ‎significance come Election Day, the margin between candidates has to be very ‎small - very, very small - and in very specific areas.

Jews in Ohio are 3% of the ‎vote, George W. Bush won the 2004 election by 2.1% of Ohio votes. This means ‎that even in the closest of elections you need all the Jews to vote as one bloc to ‎make a difference. That is never going to happen, as even the most optimistic ‎‎(among Republican operatives) and the most pessimistic (among Democratic ‎operatives) put the percentage of Jewish voters in play no higher than 15-18% ‎in addition to the 22-26% that voted for John McCain in 2008.‎

I’m spending the week in Washington, and talking about the 2012 Jewish vote ‎is one of the greatest joys I entertain here. I ask a lot of questions, and get a lot ‎of answers, some contradictory, some surprisingly not. The number of Jewish ‎votes in play is one topic on which I concentrated. Assuming that around 25% of ‎American Jews voted for Obama in 2008 (very few knowledgeable observers still ‎believe the 78% exit poll number of 2008), how high can Mitt Romney climb? If ‎the votes in play are no more than 18% - and that is the most ambitious estimate ‎I was able to extract – Romney’s ceiling is 43%. But for him to get to that number ‎one needs to give him every single vote of every single undecided Jewish voter. ‎Realistic? Not quite.‎

If Romney gets half the votes of undecided Jews, he’d be at 34%. That is, if you ‎agree with the 25% estimate of the McCain vote, and the 18% estimate of votes ‎in play – the highest estimate I got. If you go by the exit poll (22% for McCain) ‎and add to it the lowest votes in play estimate I got – 12% - the Romney ceiling is ‎much lower, 34%, and the likely Romney achievement (if he gets half of the ‎Jewish vote-in-play) will be around 28% of the Jewish vote. ‎

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And all of it doesn’t matter much – but is interesting nonetheless. For the ‎second time this year, we’ve asked our Israel Factor experts to take an educated ‎guess and tell us what they think the Jewish vote is going to look like. When we ‎did it back in January, they predicted that an Obama-Romney race would ‎produce a 34% vote for the Republican nominee. But a similar question in May’s ‎Factor survey produced a much more subdued prediction: 29.5% for Romney. ‎Pretty close to the answers I got from experts, activists, pollsters and other ‎friends in Washington. The highest prediction of any panelist was 35% for ‎Romney, the lowest 25%. But most of the panelists agreed that Romney would ‎come close to 30%. ‎

Will 30% be an achievement for him, or would it not? Let me parse for you the ‎probable spin:‎

It means nothing: The whole country voted for Romney in greater numbers than ‎in 2008, and so did the Jews. Nothing to be surprised about or find unique.‎

It means a lot: When was the last time that any Republican nominee got 30% of ‎the vote or more? It was Reagan in 1984. If Romney is able to get more votes ‎than McCain, Bush (II, twice), Dole, Bush (I), and repeat the 1984 Reagan vote, ‎this is no small thing. ‎

It means nothing: And how many states did this shift of 5-8% of the Jewish vote ‎flip for Romney? None (Yes, I’m talking a risk here, and predicting that no state ‎will be as close as to make 5% of the Jewish vote the decisive factor. ‎

It means a lot: The Jews are moving rightward, slowly but surely (take a look at ‎our Jewish Party Identification meter). Jewish donors will also be moving ‎rightward. Jewish votes might not count a lot, but Jewish money, activism and ‎influence does count. Romney getting to 30% means Obama losing 5% - and ‎this, if estimates and educated guesses are accurate (which I tend to doubt - ‎S.R.), means a fair amount of money. ‎

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