(photo credit: REUTERS)
NEW YORK -- In a dead heat statewide with Donald Trump in the critical battleground of Florida, Hillary Clinton is grappling with a drop in support for her candidacy among its Jewish population, a private poll has found.
The poll, conducted by the Mellman Group, found the Democratic presidential nominee is significantly underperforming the former campaigns of US President Barack Obama, who posted strong numbers from the community in 2012 and 2008. Running for reelection against former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, Obama captured 67 percent of the Jewish vote and won the state's 27 electoral college votes.
A poll released last month showed Clinton at roughly that same level of support. But she has since lost ground– enough to affect who ultimately wins the state unless she rebounds, Mark Mellman told The Jerusalem Post
on Thursday night.
"In order to win, she's going to have to do at least about as well among Jewish voters as President Obama did," Mellman said. "And she's doing less well than Obama has done."
Diminishing Jewish support for Clinton has directly contributed to the loss of her lead statewide, Mellman noted. A Quinnipiac University Poll released on Thursday showed the two candidates deadlocked in Florida at 47-47.
A poll by GBA Strategies released on August 26– conducted as Clinton was enjoying a boost in support from the Democratic National Convention– showed her with the support of 67% of likely Jewish voters. But that poll "was done when she was doing very well," Mellman said.
"She's doing less well than that," he continued. The Post
was briefed on details of the private poll. "If she gets that 67, she can win Florida because [Obama] did. But she probably doesn't have to get quite there because of high Hispanic and Latino voter registration."
Clinton is not at risk of losing the majority of Jewish voters, who amount to 5% of Florida's voter population and have reliably voted Democratic nationwide for decades. The margin remains historically consistent– in the high double-digits– and does not represent an anomalous or precipitous drop.
But if the Mellman Group poll holds through November, then Clinton does risk posting a deflated showing in a race that has largely become a referendum on issues Jewish voters are most passionate about: national security, religious liberty, social welfare and issues of pluralism.
Trump's path to the White House runs through Florida and effectively ends with a loss in the delegate-rich state. His own campaign officials acknowledge there are few if any routes to the necessary 270 electoral college votes without him winning the Sunshine state.
Mellman warned against extrapolating trends within the national Jewish community from the population in Florida, which is generally an older group. But he said that persuadable Jewish voters do fit a pattern: They tend to be more active in the Jewish world, attend synagogue regularly, and– unlike most American Jews– prioritize Israel when voting.
Clinton may be down, but there is opportunity and time for improvement.
"The anti-pluralism of Trump is one piece of business," said Mellman, one of the nation's leading pollsters. "The other piece of business is making it very clear to those Jewish voters in Florida that she has significant differences with the president on Israel."
Hillary for America's Jewish outreach director, Sarah Bard, told the Post
in July that her team is working particularly hard on turning out the Jewish vote. She expressed little doubt that Clinton will ultimately win
the Jewish vote by a healthy, if not historic, margin.
"The community has to come out in as full force as it possibly can," Bard said.