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February 1, 2012

How to spin the Florida Jewish vote

http://www.jewishjournal.com/blog/item/how_to_spin_the_florida_jewish_vote_20120201/

Photo

Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich at their debate in Florida, January 2012. (Photo: Reuters)

A week ago I wrote that the most interesting question about the Florida Jewish vote is that “If the percentage of Republican Jews is higher this year than in 2008; if more than 4-5% of the Republican Florida voters are Jewish.” The answer to this question is now clear: a resounding no. According to exit polls only 1% of Republican voters were Jewish – that’s not more but rather less Jewish voters than the number of 2008. Jonathan Tobin of the conservative Contentions was trying to spin this number in a way that makes it less devastating for Jewish Republicans:

It is true that a drop in GOP Jewish registration shows none of the candidates generated enough Jewish buzz to get more voters to switch party affiliation as in 2008. But the comparison is unfair, because the man who drove that mini-surge in Jewish Republican voters was Rudy Giuliani. Though he flopped in the Florida primary four years ago, the former mayor of New York was a big favorite of the Jewish and pro-Israel community. None of this year’s Republican crop can claim that kind of loyalty from Jews, but the ultimate winner of the GOP nomination will have one thing going for him: he’ll be running against an incumbent president who is rightly viewed by many Jews as having distanced himself from Israel.

Nice try, but I don’t know how Tuesday’s results could be interpreted in ways favorable to Jewish Republicans. Clearly, the Jews of Florida aren’t moved by the candidates, they aren’t moved by the party, and they aren’t moved by Obama’s policies – not enough to switch party registration and vote for their candidate of choice. The Giuliani theory is moving and somewhat sensible, except for one problem: Tobin has no way of proving that the Jews of Florida supported Giuliani over John McCain. McCain was campaigning with his good buddy Senator Joe Lieberman all across Florida, and since the percentage of Jews in the exit polls was so low, we don’t know how the actual Jewish vote was distributed among the candidates.

Tobin is right about one thing: the fact that there was no surge in Jewish Republican primary voters doesn’t guarantee the 2012 Jewish support for Obama. The Jews of Florida could still decide to vote for the eventual GOP nominee (probably Romney), or could still decide to stay home. But Tuesday’s primary vote didn’t give any indication that such thing is more likely to happen than previously thought. Democrats have good reason to feel vindicated - Republicans have good reason to, well, try and spin it.

 

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