December 30, 2011 | 9:03 am
A project like The Israel Factor has now the benefit of being around for a while. We started the Factor back in 2006, and gone through two midterms (2006, 2010) and one full Presidential cycle (2008). Next week, in Iowa, the 2012 will officially begin – and as things look right now the race it is going to be nothing like 2008, when for the first half of the year all we did is track two primary battles, before we could seriously begin to consider the actual race (Obama vs. McCain).
No, the Republican race isn’t over, but from what I see and hear in my first two days in Iowa it is hard not to suspect that the game is pretty much close to being over, with Mitt Romney the ultimate nominee, no matter how well Ron Paul might do here. In all election cycles of the last thirty years one of the candidates winning either Iowa or New Hampshire followed his victory by also winning South Carolina and then the nomination. Since Romney is almost sure to win NH, and also has a fair chance to win here in Iowa (or be a close second), I don’t see how a Gingrich (that is losing supporters by the day) or a Huntsman (even in case he surprises everyone in New Hampshire – but not actually winning there) or a Paul (unless the party is in a suicidal mood, which I can’t say is what I see here: voters seem conflicted, undecided, but still very much want to beat Obama) – can pull this through. So – baring great surprises – and make no mistake, the visiting writer loves interesting surprises! – I’d assume Romney it is.
If you were following our December survey you already know that the panel believes a Republican win would be better for Israel in a Romney-Obama race. When the panelists were asked to rate the two from 1 to 5 in a two-head race, they chose Romney with an average of 4 over Obama with an average of 3.55. I must tell you, though, that panelists were not all united in this conclusion. 3 out of our nine members of the panel ranked Obama higher, but these three also ranked Romney still high. On the other hand, some of the panelists that thought Romney was the better candidate, ranked Obama much lower. In short (and you can read more about it in one of my previous analyses), there isn’t much controversy concerning Romney in our panel, while Obama is a candidate that some members of our panel feel pretty strongly is not the best for Israel.
As I mentioned, we started the Factor a while ago, and this enables us to do more than compare Romney and Obama today. The two candidates were running since we began to survey our panel, and while Romney at some point lost (to McCain) and was dropped off our list of questions – it is still interesting to see how the two faired along the course of more than five years. To show you this, we sampled eight Factor surveys, starting October 2006, and put them all together for you to see. Obama and Romney, 2006-2012, how good they are for Israel:
Three quick comments on this graph:
It is Romney all the time. Obama was never at a place where he could surpass Romney in the eyes of our panel. Not when he was a candidate, like Romney, and not when he became President while Romney remained no more than a candidate. Both of them seem today a little better than they did five years ago, but the gap remains (almost) the same.
With all the talk about Obama’s strained relations with the Israeli government, he is still doing better today as a known commodity than he did as a relatively unknown candidate. The Factor panel still wants to see someone else at the helm (Romney, Gingrich, according to our latest survey), but doesn’t treat Obama today as suspiciously as it did five and four years ago.
The one time in which the panel gave Obama marks as high as Romney’s was three months ago, when the President stood adamantly to defend Israel at the UN. The impact, though, did not last very long. Maybe because of the tendency of people to easily forget the good things, or maybe because of the string of unfavorable (to Israel) comments by administration officials (Clinton, Panetta, and to some extent ambassador Gutman).
Our next Israel Factor survey will be posted shortly after the New Hampshire primary. It should be interesting.
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