(photo credit: REUTERS)
WASHINGTON – Secure as the Democratic Party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton is turning to the general election against Donald Trump, focusing her resources on a handful of key states where Jewish voters may well hand her a victory, senior figures in the party told The Jerusalem Post.
Jewish Americans reliably vote Democratic by an average ratio of four to one, and have done so for decades. The Clinton campaign is not concerned with her ability to secure the Jewish vote. But it hopes to galvanize the community, spur it to action, and grow her margin of Jewish support in order to better her chances in critical swing states where Jews comprise of a substantial portion of the voting population, particularly Florida, Virginia and Ohio.
The Jewish vote is relatively small, but matters especially in close state contests – and a recent poll published by Public Policy Polling shows that Trump currently leads Clinton in Florida by a single percentage point.
Such a tight race increases the importance of Florida’s Jews, who amount to only 3 percent of the state population but 5% of the voters.
For a Republican to secure enough Electoral College votes to win the White House, the candidate cannot afford to lose delegate-rich Florida, which with some 21 million residents is the US’s third-most populous state.
Clinton hopes to deny Trump that path not only by galvanizing Jewish voters, but also the state’s massive Hispanic and Latino community, as well, who account for 23% of the population.
Record-low support from Hispanics for Trump may offset Clinton’s need to increase her Jewish voter turnout: Anger at Trump in this community may prove so overwhelming over his position on building a wall with Mexico and deporting illegal immigrant families, that the Jewish vote may diminish in significance as the race proceeds.
Jewish support for Obama in Florida dropped by 9 percentage points between 2008 and 2012, for example, from 78 to 69%. But Obama nevertheless won the state with outsized support from other demographics. So a further decline this year – which is far from guaranteed – would still not be enough for Trump to win the state.
Nevertheless, in recent weeks, the Democratic National Committee has made a point of highlighting actions by Trump interpreted by many in the American Jewish community as anti-Semitic, including the enthusiastic support he receives from white supremacist groups, his seemingly slow response to his supporters’ attacks on Jewish figures, and his use of the slogan “America First,” which conjures uncomfortable historic parallels to an isolationist political movement in the 1940s bearing the same name.
And while the Anti-Defamation League never endorses candidates, its repeated condemnation of Trump and his supporters suggests it favors Clinton, at least for now.
Jewish community leaders also appear skeptical as to Trump’s true level of support for Israel, despite a series of speeches the candidate delivered vowing loyalty to the Jewish state. Republican and Democratic lawmakers alike still question his comments during the primaries that a president Trump would be “neutral” in negotiating an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
And Israel policy appears to be a significant issue for persuadable Jewish voters, according to several Democratic Party insiders. Those aware of internal polling worry that harsher language in the Democratic Party Platform, currently under the pen in Philadelphia, could compromise support amongst this critical voting bloc.
The Republican Jewish Coalition has spent millions of dollars in past cycles – $6.5 million in 2012 – to corrode Jewish support for Democrats, and is hoping to continue the trend based on polls showing that roughly half of American Jews oppose the international nuclear deal with Iran, brokered by the Obama administration and passed through Congress with Democratic support.
But whether Republicans would have been able to capitalize on anguish within the Jewish community toward the Obama administration in an average year has now been shuffled by the party’s nomination of Trump for president.
In the wider Republican Jewish community, several public figures – including investor Paul Singer, a mega-donor, and Dan Senor, a prominent columnist – have refused to endorse Trump. Others have come out in support of the candidate, including former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer and billionaire businessman Sheldon Adelson. But unlike in past years, Republican Jewish support appears far from guaranteed – reflective of a split in support party-wide.
While Jewish donors, surrogates and activists will continue to play a significant role in the campaign – several of Clinton’s wealthiest supporters and most enthusiastic advocates are active members of the Jewish community – her primary goal will be to win over persuadable Jewish voters who had turned to Mitt Romney, former governor of Massachusetts and the GOP presidential nominee in 2012.
Romney – the man who peeled away a substantial number of Jewish votes from Obama last election cycle – refuses to endorse Trump for president.