Democrats Claim Jewish Support Steady in Midterm Results, Republicans Stress Inroads Made Among Jewish Voters
The resounding victory by Republicans in yesterday’s U.S. midterm elections has again raised the question of whether the GOP can make significant inroads into the Jewish vote, as President Barack Obama enters the “lame duck” period of his final term in office.
Exit polls as voting stations closed last night showed a very slight dip in support for the Democratic Party among Jews. Sixty-five percent of Jews voted for Democratic candidates yesterday, with 33 percent voting for the Republicans. In 2010, the Jewish vote was split 66-31 in favor of the Democrats.
However, a poll commissioned from Democratic pollster Jim Gerstein by J Street, the liberal Jewish lobbying organization opposed to Jewish settlement in the West Bank, recorded a more definitive 69-28 percent split among Jews in favor of Democrat congressional candidates.
Interviewed by The Algemeiner, Gerstein said the numerical difference between his poll and the other exit polls was “small.” However, he said, “the demographic data that we have lines up assuredly with the 2013 Pew study of Jews in America, which has established itself as the gold standard. Also, our survey has a larger sample size of Jews when compared with the exit polls.”
Gerstein said that Jewish support for the Democrats remained steady, pointing out that in 2010, 66 percent of Jews voted for Democratic congressional candidates, a figure that rose to 69 percent in the congressional elections of 2012. Asked about Republican claims that the GOP was making progress on gaining Jewish votes, Gerstein said, “the data doesn’t support that.”
Jack Moline, Executive Director of the National Jewish Democratic Council (NJDC), expressed satisfaction with the level of Jewish support for the Democrats in this years’ midterms. Citing the Gerstein poll, Moline told The Algemeiner, “I wish the rest of the country had followed suit.”
Addressing the contention that Jewish voters are increasingly disillusioned with the current administration’s approach to both the Israeli-Palestinian issue and the negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program, Moline said there were two conceivable explanations. “Either Jews who vote Democrat are satisfied that the US-Israel relationship is in good hands with the Democrats, or it means that there isn’t a compelling message from Republicans to convince Jews that there is a problem,” Moline said.
“Democrats are doing just fine with Israel,” Moline asserted. “It’s rhetorical nonsense that there has been damage to US-Israel relations.”
Moline also raised the recent controversy provoked by an article by Atlantic correspondent Jeffrey Goldberg, in which a “senior Obama official” described Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as a “chickenshit.”
“What the relationship is between two individuals, I can’t tell you,” Moline said. But he added, certain facts – for example American-Israeli cooperation over Israel’s Iron Dome air defense system – “show that their relationship is stronger than ever. Obama has built on the strong relationship that George W. Bush established, as Bush did in turn with Bill Clinton. This is a trajectory that has not been impeded – if anything it has been strengthened.”
Turning to the 2016 presidential election, Moline alluded to the possibility that Rand Paul, the Kentucky Senator who is widely portrayed as a foreign policy isolationist, may head the Republican ticket. There wasn’t “much daylight” separating Paul from former President Jimmy Carter, a Democrat who, Moline said, had become a “pariah” in the Jewish community because of his hostile views towards Israel.
But that assessment was dismissed as “laughable” by Matt Brooks, Executive Director of the Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC,) who told The Algemeiner, “Jimmy Carter is vehemently anti-Israel and pro-Hamas, while Rand Paul is strongly pro-Israel.”
“This year the GOP got 33% of the Jewish vote nationally,” Brooks said of the midterms. “This confirms, yet again, the unmistakable trend of increasing Jewish support for Republicans.”
A statement released by the RJC stated: “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 midterm elections, Republicans got more than 30% of the Jewish vote.”
Brooks said that the RJC had countered J Street backing for Democratic candidates in 18 of yesterday’s races, winning 13 of them. That strong showing, he said, in part reflected that the messaging of Republican candidates spoke to Jewish concerns over the situation in the Middle East.
“Republican candidates spoke strongly on Islamic State and on the need for increased sanctions on Iran, and they condemned the comments reported in Jeffrey Goldberg’s article,” Brooks said, citing as an example a robust statement on the Middle East issued by Tom Cotton, the Republican candidate who won a Senate seat in yesterday’s critical race in Arkansas.
In that statement, Cotton condemned the “unnamed administration officials [who] disparage Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with vulgar ad hominem attacks,” and urged “President Obama to renounce these reports and disclose the names of these officials and fire them. Iran remains our worst enemy and Israel our closest ally.”