It’s presidential campaign season, and for Mitt Romney and Barack Obama that means assuring American Jews that they’ll be good for the Israel. President Obama has frequently been criticized by hawkish American Jews for his policies in the Mideast, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will visit the Jewish state mid-month. Don’t expect to see any photos of her visit in any Brooklyn Hasidic newspapers.
Later this summer it will be Romney’s turn to meet the Israeli prime minister. The New York Times reports:
Mr. Romney, who has pledged to “do the opposite” of the Obama administration on matters pertaining to Israel, is also expected to meet with Salam Fayyad, the prime minister of the Palestinian Authority; President Shimon Peres of Israel; the American ambassador, Daniel B. Shapiro; and leaders of the opposition Labor Party in Jerusalem. He plans to have at least one public event in a trip that will likely last less than two days.
“He’s a strong friend of Israel and we’ll be happy to meet with him,” said Ron Dermer, Mr. Netanyahu’s senior adviser, who worked with Republicans in the United States before immigrating here. “We value strong bipartisan support for Israel and we’re sure it will only deepen that.”
For Mr. Romney, the trip is an opportunity to appeal both to Jewish voters and donors, whose overwhelming support of President Obama has softened, according to some polls, and to evangelical Christians, whose trust he is still fighting to win. At the March conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the pro-Israel lobby known as Aipac, Mr. Romney vowed that Israel would be the destination of his first foreign trip as president, underscoring the fact that Mr. Obama has not visited here since his election, a sore spot among some Israel supporters.
Such visits have become a campaign must. But though Romney is likely to be seen as the better friend of Israel, I wonder which lovers of Israel that will appeal to. Evangelicals think Romney is not “guided by God” and liberal Jews don’t like his politics. Republican Jews, on the other hand, were already going to vote for him.
Shmuel Rosner runs the numbers on just how many—or few—Jews will vote for Romney:
Pollster Jim Gerstein answered this question last November by saying the following: “Our latest poll of American Jews simulated an election between Obama and Romney, and perhaps presents the clearest picture of where the Jewish vote may be headed. The initial vote shows Obama leading 63 to 24 [percent]. When we allocated the undecided voters by party identification — a common practice among political pollsters when trying to map out the outcome of a race — the vote was 70 to 27 [percent].”
So what does this mean for presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney?
It is important to note at this point that in reality, 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.
Like Ohio and Florida. Significantly, they have substantial Jewish populations.
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