Exit polls from Tuesday’s midterms indicate the GOP increased its support among Jewish voters. The polls report that 33% of Jewish voters supported Republican candidates while 66% went to the Democrats. In 2006 (the last midterm exit polls that sampled enough Jewish voters to be analyzed), only 12% of Jewish voters selected Republican candidates (the low vote was largely motivated because of opposition to the Iraq war). Also interesting is that while they are a tiny piece of the population (2%) Jews represented 3% of voters: In other words they tend to turn out and vote.
According to the Republican Jewish Coalition the 2014 GOP Jewish vote was historic:
Since 1982, the historical average for the GOP in mid-term elections among Jewish voters has been 26%. The range has a low of 18% in 1982 and a high of 33% this year. In each of the last two
One reason for change in allegiance may be that Republicans are more supportive of Israel than Democrats (remember the “catcalls” from those at the DNC in Charlotte when they tried to add back one of the four pro-Israel provisions to the Democratic platform?).
A recent Pew study conducted during the first week of Operation Protective Edge and released Tuesday finds support for Israel among Americans remaining strong. What has changed is the gap between Republican Party supporters (73%) and Democratic Party supporters (44%) is wider than ever.
Another motivation for the switch is President Obama’s anti-Israel policies.
The Jewish vote in presidential elections has seen three major shifts in the past 40 years. The first occurred during the reelection campaign of Jimmy Carter, the second during the Bush 41 race, and most recently Barack Obama’s reelection. Those three presidents were the most anti-Israel in the modern history of the Jewish State.
Carter received less than half the Jewish vote when he ran for reelection in 1980 (45%), Reagan 39% of the vote, and independent candidate John Anderson about 15%. The elder Bush caused a downturn in the GOP Jewish which lasted until his son’s administration. During Bush #41’s tenure, relations with Israel got so bad Secretary of State James Baker was reported as saying “F**k the Jews; they wont vote for us anyway.” For his reelection bid, Bush #41 generated only 11% of the Jewish vote (down from 35% during his first run).
President Obama is the first of the three anti-Israel presidents who won reelection, but his policies have driven down his support from Jews. In his first election in 2008, Obama earned 78% of the Jewish vote. It fell to 69% in 2012 and now 66% in the 2014 midterm, which was largely seen as a referendum on Obama’s policies.
Obama’s second term has been more anti-Israel than his first and based on the signals being sent it is sure to get worse (and that is no chickensh*t).
As we start moving toward the 2016 election, the time is ripe for the GOP to make a real effort to reach out to Jewish voters. I am not talking about the Republican Jewish Coalition, which does a great job for what it is, but this effort needs to be part of the RNC itself.
Jews have a fear of Israel becoming a wedge issue and losing support of one party because of the other. Therefore, the GOP outreach cannot be couched as “we are pro-Israel and they’re not,” but it needs to be a more stealthy effort. It also can’t use a lot of funds. Face it: Raising the Jewish vote from 30 to 45 or even 50% cannot be a priority for the GOP, but it can be done based on Obama’s policies and that with the possible exception of the time from her first campaign for New York’s Senate seat in 2000 to her resignation from the Senate to become Secretary of State in January 2009 (when she needed New York’s Jewish voting bloc) that Hillary Clinton has never been pro-Israel.
So how do they do it? With each anti-Israel act from the White House (and they are becoming more frequent), GOP congressional members not only need to criticize the president for abandoning Israel as an ally but also to publicly wonder why their Democratic colleagues for not criticizing the president’s anti-Israel actions. Right now the only constant loud voice coming from the GOP is Ted Cruz, and it has to be broader than that. Cruz is running for president and it has to be seen as more of a broad GOP response than a presidential campaign effort.
A great example of how the GOP missed an opportunity was the recent “chickensh*t” incident.
Debbie Wasserman Shultz, chairwoman of the DNC, who traveled the country in 2012 proclaiming that Obama was a friend of Israel, never offered criticism of the “chickensh*t” comment. Neither did Sen. Chuck Schumer, who never met a TV camera he didn’t love. He didn’t love cameras or Israel enough to speak out. Jerrold Nadler who shows up to speak at every pro-Israel rally in New York City he can find didn’t show up when it counted. Even Steve Israel, the exiting chairman of the DCCC and another supposed friend of the Jewish State who was on TV every day bashing members of the Tea Party, didn’t use at least one one of those appearances to voice displeasure for the “chickensh*t” remark. Despite the fact that many of them claim to support Israel, with the exception of Rep. Elliot Engel (D-NY), none, not one of the 240+ Democratic Party members of the House or Senate has had the guts to speak out.
On the other hand, GOP Chairman Reince Preibus issued a statement condemning the remarks, as did Republicans in both houses of congress such as Lindsey Graham, John McCain, Mitch McConnell, John Boehner, and others. What they didn’t do is use a TV appearance to criticize the comment and call on their Democratic Party colleagues to join them in condemning the comment. That little addition would have sent the message home.
A few weeks before chickensh*tgate, when the White House criticized Israel not for constructing new homes but for allowing Jews to purchase homes in East Jerusalem, a Republican spokesman should have gone on TV asking what other areas of the world the administration believes Jews shouldn’t be allowed to purchase homes in. Nobody criticized the Obama government for ignoring written assurances given to it by the Bush administration binding U.S. policy in allowing natural expansion of settlements in the West Bank and new settlements in Jerusalem. Israel made concessions based on those assurances which were unilaterally broken by Obama and Clinton.
The opportunities are there and in the end it can help the 2016 effort, not nationally but in the key battleground states with big Jewish oopulations such as Florida, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Nevada and even possibly in New Jersey.
The Jewish vote represents a good opportunity for the RNC:
- The Jewish vote is small but they are strong turnout voters and they are concentrated in key battleground states such as Florida, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Nevada.
- Republicans are increasing in their support of Israel, Democratic support is declining.
- Obama is being even more anti-Israel in his second administration.
- The Jewish vote shifts significantly in response to an anti-Israel presidents.
- The GOP can accelerate that shift by criticizing Obama for his anti-Israel acts AND pointing out the other side is silent.
- Hillary Clinton has support in the Jewish community, but horrible credentials when it comes to Israel. An effort such as this will force her to choose between the Democratic base as she pivots left to get the nomination, and the traditional Jewish voter and donor base.
Keep in mind, along with Jews, this type of effort will motivate Evangelical voters.
Cross-posted at The Lid