Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Paul Ryan (R-WI) (C) speaks to the assembled House after being elected as the new Speaker in Washington October 29, 2015..
(photo credit: REUTERS/GARY CAMERON)
WASHINGTON – Democrats plan to micro-target Jewish-American voters residing in congressional districts that have been led by Republicans for years, eyeing races in the November midterm elections that may hinge on a mere handful of votes and thus rely on their turnout, several political operatives told The Jerusalem Post this week.
The coming effort was described as “artful and strategic,” “scientific” and “analytics-based.”
Democrats believe Jewish voters will go to the polls for them in droves motivated by US President Trump’s treatment of women, his approach to gun control and his response to a spike in antisemitism across the US in the wake of a neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, last summer.
A survey by the Post
found that, among 43 House districts considered toss-ups or leaning Republican, 21 have 10,000 Jewish voters or more – enough to justify the investment of critical campaign dollars, say the operatives, who have preliminarily discussed the plan with leadership of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and the Democratic Governors Association.
The districts span 15 states. Democrats must flip 24 Republican-held districts to win back the House of Representatives.
How many races the Democrats will play in, and how targeted their efforts become, will depend on how the races develop over the coming months and on the success of their fund-raising. It is still considered early in the process with seven months to go before Election Day.
But a special election in southwest Pennsylvania last month may provide a guide. In that race, a Democratic insurgent, Conor Lamb, won in a historically conservative coal mining district by 755 votes. That district is home to more than 11,000 Jewish voters, according to data collected by the Berman Jewish Data Bank, a project run by the Jewish Federations of North America.
The race clarified just how important each vote will be in November – but also on a tactical level, how certain Democratic votes that have been neglected in past campaigns will require fresh attention.
“I’m not going to tell you that it was the Jewish community that swung that race, but it contributed,” said Ron Klein, board chairman of the Jewish Democratic Council of America. “This has the potential of being a fairly significant, watershed election, and all the performance statistics indicate there will be many seats in play.”
To what extent Democrats will target Jewish votes “is limited to the capacity we have,” Klein said, “but we’re in the process of fund-raising right now.”
“There are different things we can do in different communities,” he added.
Some of these districts have been solidly Republican for years, including several in California, New Jersey and Texas, as well as ones in Georgia, Minnesota, Michigan, Ohio, Nevada and Illinois. According to The Cook Political Report, which aggregates polling data to determine the competitiveness of races, 13 of the 21 districts that have large Jewish populations were reliably Republican in 2016 but may swing in November.
In those districts, “Democrats had little, if no hope of winning in 2016, but we believe is very much in play this year,” said Aaron Keyak, a Democratic political consultant with Bluelight Strategies based in Washington.
Jewish Americans are already one of the most reliable constituencies for Democrats, voting consistently and in high numbers proportionate to the population. But those living in districts politically imbalanced against them may not be as active.
“We’re now in the process through our own research of figuring out where the Jewish community is such a size that they could alter the impact of a close race,” Klein said. “And that seems to be many places. The anxiety level in the country is very high.”
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