I write about Jewish politics for a Jewish newspaper, so it’s hardly surprising I tend to look at things through the lens of the issue that preoccupies most major Jewish groups: Israel.
But if I was working on President Obama’s reelection campaign, Israel would be the least of my worries. Even among Jewish voters, he faces a much bigger danger in the months ahead: the sputtering economy.
The 2012 presidential and congressional contests won’t be about foreign policy and the ongoing wars in Afghanistan and Libya, and they certainly won’t be about U.S. policy toward Israel – despite the uproar of the past week in the narrow pro-Israel universe and despite GOP efforts to capitalize on it among Jewish voters.
If the economy is on the rebound, President Obama will be hard to beat, no matter how confused his foreign policy; if this week’s glut of bad economic news signals a return to the economic crisis that catapulted the senator from Illinois to the White House in 2008, his reelection prospects will sink along with housing prices and the stock market.
And I’m pretty sure this dynamic will affect the Jewish vote, although the swing won’t be as wide as in the general electorate; there’s no way he won’t win a sizable majority of the Jewish vote.
Obama stands to lose more Jewish votes if the economy is heading South than because he repeated longstanding U.S. policy that Israel and the Palestinians should start negotiations based on the 1967 borders, with land swaps, or because Republicans are saying he want to throw Israel under the bus.
The Republicans are training all their guns on the Israel issue in their Jewishj efforts – mostly because what they’re really after are Jewish campaign contributors, and the Israel issue tends to be much more central with them. That focus could also swing some votes, but not enough to make much of a difference.
As you hear the partisan back and forth as the campaign unfolds, just keep in mind the watchword of former President Bill Clinton’s 1992 campaign: “It’s the economy, stupid.”
Today more than ever.