On Friday I wrote a story that President Obama had slightly widened the gap with Mitt Romney when it comes to the Jewish vote. That came from a Gallup poll that was published just after Ron Paul admitted he wouldn''t be able to get the delegates needed to challenge Romney on the floor of the Republican National Convention -- but that he still intended to put on a strong show from his supporters.
Soon after, his son and booster Rand Paul endorsed Romney. Romney returned the favor with warm wards about Rand, a Kentucky senator and the politician poised to take up his father''s political mantle.
The new poll numbers and Rand Paul''s support for Romney are not related; the poll was concluded before both Ron Paul conceded the delegate fight and Rand Paul made his endorsement. But their support and Romney''s welcoming of it point to a continued sensitivity that Romney will have to contend with when trying to get the Jewish vote.
In his campaign, Romney might be able to focus on issues that win Jewish support -- backing for Israel, a tough stance on Iran -- and come across as moderate enough on social issues. (Even Republican Jews generally tend to be pro-choice, pro-separation of church and state and the like.)
But Romney has to contend with voices in his party that often alienate Jews. Usually they are social conservatives who talk about a Christian country, such as his erstwhile competitor Rick Santorum did. In the Pauls'' case, they represent a growing isolationist and libertarian strand that eschews aid to Israel, foreign intervention on issues like Iran and other actions that increase US involvement in the Middle East.
Romney, already having trouble shoring up the most fervent, active base of the party, doesn''t want to alienate any GOP faithful. Which means welcoming the endorsement from Rand Paul. Romney did, however, stick to praising him for his backing of small government -- a consensus GOP issue that doesn''t touch on his controversial views on, say, foreign policy. But it''s an open question whether that will be enough of a tightrope walk to keep him from stepping on Jewish voters'' sensibilities.
- Hilary Leila Krieger