Candidates making last-ditch efforts in Indiana

Polls show Obama close on McCain's heels in traditionally red state.

November 4, 2008 00:05
4 minute read.
Candidates making last-ditch efforts in Indiana

McCain Palin 224.88. (photo credit: AP)


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On Yom Kippur, Rabbi Stanley Halpern set aside time from the fast day's special prayers for a talk in synagogue about Tuesday's presidential elections. Halpern, the rabbi of Temple Israel in this Midwestern town told The Jerusalem Post on Monday that the purpose of the talk had been to get his approximately 400 congregants to ask the right questions about an election that will likely have historic repercussions. "Our discussion on Yom Kippur focused on the question of who is best for Jews," he said Monday. "There are other issues as well, and whenever there is an economic problem like now, Jews get blamed and this is concerning for us." Traditionally a red state, Indiana has always voted republican except in 1964, when Lyndon Johnson was elected president. While Republican candidate John McCain is leading the polls in Indiana with 47.6 percent of the vote, a democratic presidential candidate is for the first time trailing by a small margin, with Barack Obama polling at 46.2%. For this reason, both candidates are making a last-ditch effort to gather points in the state. McCain made a final campaign stop in Indianapolis late Monday. Obama is scheduled to visit Indiana on Tuesday, breaking tradition and campaigning on Election Day. McCain's stop was part of a final barnstorming tour through several states. The rally was held in the international arrivals ramp of Indianapolis International Airport and was McCain's first campaign stop in Indiana since he addressed a meeting of the nation's sheriffs in Indianapolis on July 1. Obama's campaign has focused money and time on Indiana. While the Jewish vote is not expected to determine the fate of the candidates like in Florida or Michigan, it will likely have an impact on the outcome of the state elections. There are approximately 16,000 Jews in Indiana, David Sklar from the Jewish Community Relations Council said Monday, with the majority of them in the greater Indianapolis area. Obama, he said, appears to be the Jews' preferred candidate. "We don't do polling, but historically the Jewish vote is Democratic," Sklar said. "Being around people in the community it is easy to tell that everybody is excited, tuned in and watching the news to stay informed." The elections, he said, were being taken very seriously by the Jewish community, and in predominantly Jewish areas, voting lines were stretching for hours for early voting. "This is unheard of," he said. According to Jenny Cohen, the publisher of Indiana's Jewish Post and Opinion, the main issue for Jews in the state was Israel. "Traditionally Jews vote Democratic," Cohen said. "But there are strong Republicans and everybody is interested." Halpern said that while his community in northwestern Indiana was mostly liberal, the support for the candidates mostly corresponded with their support of Israeli politicians. "We have very staunch supporters on both sides, but the majority are leaning towards Obama," he said. "The issues and the dividing line is that those who are more hawkish and support Likud lean towards McCain. Those who support Kadima and Labor support Obama." Halpern said that as a rabbi, he doesn't tell his congregants who to vote for but instead urges them to study the issues. He compared the current elections the famous Talmudic battles between the greats sages Hillel and Shamai. "We focus on the issues and prioritize," he said. "We are facing economic and security issues at levels that we haven't seen in recent times, and we have to be educated." McCain campaigned in Florida, Tennessee and Indiana on Monday, and planned stops in New Mexico and Nevada before returning early Tuesday to his home state of Arizona. It was his final bid to persuade undecided voters that he, and not his rival, was more qualified to lead the world's most powerful nation. "I need your vote," an arm-pumping McCain told supporters in Tennessee. "We need real change to Washington and we have to fight for it. And we will fight for it with your help... They may not know it, but the Mac is back. We're gonna win this election." While Republican experts argued the race was tightening, several polls suggested Obama's lead was widening, with Obama leading in Pennsylvania and other states McCain must win to have a chance of capturing the presidency. Polls conducted by Quinnipiac University suggested Obama was poised to win two critical swing states, Ohio and Pennsylvania, and is tied with McCain in a third, Florida. A win for Obama in any of these three states would be hard for McCain to overcome. To win the presidency, a candidate must win at least 270 of the 538 electoral votes distributed to states roughly in proportion to their population. Seeking, again, to distance himself from the unpopular incumbent, President George W. Bush, McCain stressed that he opposed Bush's economic policies and seeks to clean up Washington after years of scandal. He also again hammered away at Obama as a tax-and-spend Democrat - historically one of the Republicans' most potent weapons in US presidential contests. With the economy in trouble and Bush's approval ratings at near-record lows, the polls suggest Democrats will not only capture the White House but expand their majorities in both chambers of Congress. The Republicans have tried to curtail Obama's surge, dubbing him too inexperienced, too liberal and too tainted by associations with the political left to trust with the presidency. The Republicans launched a barrage of phone calls to voters in battleground states that featured Hillary Rodham Clinton's criticism of Obama in the Democratic primary. The Pennsylvania Republican Party also unveiled a TV ad featuring Obama's former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, declaring "God damn America!" in a sermon. During the primaries, Obama was forced to distance himself from Wright, but McCain said he would not make the pastor an issue in the general election. AP contributed to this report.

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