The U.S. Jewish Vote, 2012

The race for the next U.S. presidency is on, but this time, not so many Americans are heading for the exits. Four years ago, when presidential contender, 76-year-old Arizona Senator John McCain, named the intellectually feather-weight Alaska governor Sarah Palin as his vice presidential running mate, many serious people considered emigration to Canada or Australia. The thought of having Sarah Palin, who in an interview could not name a single newspaper she read and who claimed she could see Russia from her upstairs window, being only a heart-beat away from the presidency scared the bejeebars out of many U.S.-citizens.

The Obama–Romney race is too close to call and depending on whose polls one believes, the outcome is up in the air. While just a couple of weeks ago Obama had a clear lead, in areas his lamentable performance in his first debate with Romney erased much of his advantage. Huge amounts of money are thrown into the race and Sheldon Adelson, the Nevada casino mogul who made most of his money legally has offered 100 million dollars to help Mitt Romney win the presidency. He threw 10 million dollars in the ring to help failed presidential contender and former U.S. House speaker Newt Gingrich, whose virulent rhetoric for attacking Iran he heartily endorsed.  He does not trust Obama’s commitment to Israel, does not believe the sanctions that this administration has enforced on Iran work and of course does not want to pay higher taxes that Obama, if re-elected would impose.

As many of us are sitting on shpilkes, there are Washington insiders who believe Obama can win this race.

Since the days of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Jews have voted in overwhelming numbers for the Democratic candidate (the outliers being Dwight Eisenhower in 1956 and Ronald Reagan in 1980, who both garnered a significant proportion, though still no more than 40 percent of the Jewish vote).

The benchmark is President Obama’s impressive capture of 78 percent of Jewish voters in 2008. The result may be lower this time around. Reasons include the demographic growth of ultra-Orthodoxy; the more conservative voting habits of Jewish immigrants from the former Soviet Union; and the general economic downturn experienced by Jews and other Americans.

Every four years, some predict that Jews will make an exodus from the Democratic Party, but this has not come to pass. Jews like to have choices, be it on either legal abortion, which the Romney/Ryan ticket does not support, or the Republican views on U.S.-Israel relations with their strong Christian bent, which is distasteful to many Jews along with their conservative policies on social issues and the economy.

According to Ambassador Dennis Ross, distinguished professor in the practice of diplomacy for the Program for Jewish Civilization points out that the recent Arab Awakening makes the American relationship with Israel especially important, and no administration has done more for Israel than Obama’s.

The passing of hurricane Sandy has put campaigning on a momentary halt. Barack Obama is back in the White House demonstrating his presidential leadership. Republicans complain, and democrats hope, that this storm is the president’s stroke of luck.

From our correspondent, Emily Vogl

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