WASHINGTON – All the Jewish Democratic incumbents in Congress held on to their
seats in primaries Tuesday, with two Jewish candidates – Paul Hodes of New
Hampshire and David Cicilline of Rhode Island – winning contests that could
allow them to garner seats on Election Day in November.
Grossman, former American Israel Public Affairs Committee president, won the
Democratic slot for Massachusetts state treasurer, putting him in a good
position to win the statewide office.
“It’s a beautiful day,” said Steve
Rabinowitz, a Jewish Democratic strategist, the morning after the primary
results came in.
But he and other Jewish Democratic activists weren’t
just pleased by who had won in his own party.
He was also thrilled that
in several Republican races, outsider candidates backed by the “tea party”
movement had succeeded in knocking off well-established Republican contenders.
Democrats who until now have been pessimistic about November are seeing the
results as cause for hope.
The biggest upset was had by former abstinence
counselor Christine O’Donnell, who brushed aside nine-term US Representative
Michael Castle in Delaware for the Senate race. In New York, longtime politician
Rick Lazio was defeated by Carl Paladino in the race for governor. Even the win
of the partyfavored Kelly Ayotte for a New Hampshire Senate seat squeaked by
with an endorsement by Sarah Palin, a tea party favorite.
tea-partiers taking over the party from moderate Republicans,” Rabinowitz
declared. “What few Republican Jews there are won’t vote for them.”
significantly helps Democratic prospects in November,” said National Jewish
Democratic Council president David Harris agreed.
Matt Brooks, executive
director of the Republican Jewish Coalition, would differ with the assessment
that there are only a few Republican Jews and that they won’t be backing any tea
party candidates. Some establishment Republicans did prevail Tuesday or in
earlier primaries, and some newcomers emphasize a fiscal conservatism that suits
many Jewish Republicans. Brooks was also pleased by the primary win of Jewish
candidate Randy Altschuler for a New York seat in the US House.
Brooks did admit that at least in Delaware, the likelihood of Jews – and the
general public – voting Republican has now diminished.
“The message is
There’s a lot of anti-establishment sentiment
out there, and the visible face of that is the tea party, but it extends beyond
that,” he said. “O’Donnell in Delaware is very far outside the mainstream and I
don’t think is representative.”
But Kenneth Wald, a political science
professor at the University of Florida who is also affiliated with its Center
for Jewish Studies, assessed that this week’s results would not help the GOP woo
“The tea party candidates will drive away a lot of the Jews, and
not just the Democrats,” he said. “Such candidates really repel Jews in a
fundamental way because they define American as a Christian country and that
leaves Jews out.”
He also described tea party activists as generally
supportive of a muscular US military but opposed to foreign aid on economic
Brooks rejected the notion that the tea party was filled with
social conservatives, as it has focused primarily on economic issues. He also
said that support for aid to Israel remained strong among the group, and
suggested it was too small a budget item to be at real risk.
perception that the tea party candidates are extreme could alienate voters. And
Wald predicted that what would turn off Jews would also turn off moderate
Republicans. The president’s party reliably looses seats in a midterm election
and the country’s economic woes have been moving voters away from the Democratic
But Wald warned that these outsider candidates could “squander”
many seats likely to have gone Republican, conceivable keeping one or both
legislative chambers from turning over.
Rabinowitz pointed out that many
of the moderate Republicans booted out by the tea party are also contemplating
Those that pursue such a path will likely split the
vote, which could also give a boost to Democrats on Election Day.
you’re a Democratic partisan it would be naïve not to be concerned about
November,” Rabinowitz said. “It’s not good. I just feel a lot better about it
then I did a few months ago.”