Once again it looks like Republican predictions of a sea change in Jewish voting patterns will be drowned by reality.
Controversial casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson put up $6.5 million to mount the biggest-ever campaign to convince Jews to vote Republican. Actually it was less aimed at getting them to vote Republican than to vote against Barack Obama.
When a poll last spring showed Jewish support for Obama at 64 percent, Republicans started crowing that it foretold a dramatic drop from the 78 percent Obama got in November 2008, but that was a deliberately misleading apples-and-oranges contrast. The right number for comparison would have been from spring or early summer 2008, but if they’d used that it would have shown none of the improvement they were crowing about.
Now there’s a new Gallup daily tracking poll reported by BuzzFeed.com showing Obama’s lead among Jewish voters has climbed from 64-29 this spring to 70-25 by late summer among self-identified Jewish registered voters. That’s actually slightly better than four years ago at the same time. Obama’s support among Jewish women is strongest, 77 percent, compared to 63 percent among men.
You’d think with such a long string of failures – they still haven’t gotten back to the 1988 level of Jewish voting for a Republican presidential candidate when George H.W. Bush got 35 percent; his son once got within 11 points but never near to dear old dad – Republican leaders and big donors like Adelson would ask why they’re not doing any better. After outspending the Democrats by so many millions, Republican Jewish machers might be thinking it’s time to clean house.
But that’s not the entire answer. The problem is in the product. Mitt Romney is not a very appealing candidate and, more important, the Republican Party has little appeal for the vast majority of Jews on the issues that are so essential to its ultra-conservative base. For most Jewish voters, Israel is important but not decisive because they perceive both parties as pro-Israel, notwithstanding the smear campaign to paint Obama as a Muslim Manchurian candidate ready to sell out Israel. The decision on how to vote is made on other issues – Social security, Medicare, abortion, the environment, education, immigration, health care, discrimination by gender and sexual preference, taxes – and for the vast majority of Jewish voters, Republicans just don’t cut it.