My editor right now is working over my cover story for this week on Jews and the presidential election. It’s certainly been a wild ride. This is always a time of the week when I surf the net and look for bloggable stories, and I just happened to come across a piece in this week’s issue of Newsweek titled “The Fight for the Jewish Vote.” The article deals specifically with the perceived effect of Sarah Palin:
Like many Jews in south Florida, Todd and Jamie Ehrenreich are registered Democrats who have faithfully cast ballots for their party’s presidential nominees as long as they can remember. But this year, they’d decided to back Sen. John McCain, the Republican candidate. “We are over the $250,000 tax bracket, and we didn’t want to lose our money,” Jamie says. “We wanted to benefit from our own American dream.”
Then McCain selected Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate—and “lost us in one fell swoop,” says Jamie, who lives with her husband and two kids in Miami. She finds so much about Palin objectionable that she almost doesn’t know where to begin. There’s the abortion issue, for one. Palin “wouldn’t want anyone to have an abortion even for rape or incest,” says Jamie. “Who is she to judge by telling me how to live my life and overturning the things women have worked so hard for?” Equally disconcerting is Palin’s seeming shallowness on some of the most pressing matters facing the country. “She doesn’t know what she is talking about and makes it up as she goes along,” says Jamie. “The fact that she had to be coached for two weeks [to prepare for the vice presidential debate] tells me she doesn’t know anything. She just talks in circles.”
The Ehrenreichs’ reaction is hardly isolated. Many Florida Jews who had previously been open to McCain appear to share the couple’s aversion to Palin, according to political scientists, polling data and anecdotal reporting. “She stands for all the wrong things in the eyes of the Jewish community,” says Kenneth Wald, a professor at the University of Florida. Among the examples he cites: Palin seems to disdain intellectualism, she’s a vociferous opponent of gun control and she attended a fundamentalist church that hosted Jews for Jesus, which seeks to convert Jews to Christianity. (Palin apparently sat through a speech by a leader of the group in which he said terrorist attacks on Israel were punishment for Israelis’ failure to accept Jesus as the Messiah.) An American Jewish Committee poll taken in the weeks after Palin was picked found that 54 percent of respondents disapproved of her selection, compared to 37 percent who approved. And that was before the onslaught of withering criticism of her interviews with CBS’s Katie Couric.
Such rejection of Palin could prove decisive on November 4.
I agree with that analysis. Obama’s outreach to Jews has been extensive—a bunch of little schleppers went to Florida this weekend to sway their bubbes—and though he is still not polling well, a lot of folks who had been on the fence have been pushed back over to Obama’s side by Palin. Tune in Thursday for a lot more.