465_ Eric Cantor.
(photo credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS)
WASHINGTON – Following Tuesday’s Republican sweep, US Rep. Eric Cantor is on
track to become House Majority Leader, the highest-ranking position ever held by
a Jewish member of Congress.
RELATED:Obama takes responsibility for Democratic ‘shellacking’Jewish leaders: Political shift won't affect ME policy
The Virginia Republican currently serves as
the House minority whip, placing him in line to become Majority Leader after an
upcoming leadership race expected to put Ohio Republican John Boehner in the
Despite suffering heavy losses, the Democrats will also
have a few new Jewish faces come January, including Connecticut Senator Richard
Blumenthal and David Cicilline of Rhode Island; the latter will become the third
openly gay Jewish member of the House.
Still, the number of Jewish
members of Congress is set to decrease slightly as Wisconsin’s Russ Feingold
lost his Senate seat and New Hampshire Rep. Paul Hodes, his Senate
bid. Florida Representatives Ron Klein and Alan Grayson were also knocked
out, along with Rep. John Adler of New Jersey and Rep. Steve Kagen of
Wisconsin. But California Senator Barbara Boxer and Arizona
Rep. Gabrielle Giffords fought off tough challenges leaving around 10
percent of the 535- member chambers Jewish.
Exit polls indicated that
Jewish support for Democratic candidates has slipped to some of its lowest
levels in years.
According to a poll conducted by the “pro-Israel,
pro-peace” J Street lobby, American Jews backed Democrats over Republicans by a
That number is significantly higher than for all Americans
– who preferred Republicans to Democrats 54-43 – but the 31% does represent one
of the larger totals for Republicans in recent polling history. This, according
to Republican Jewish Coalition numbers which said the average support for GOP
candidates in mid-term elections is 24%, but has ranged from 18% to
“We are encouraged by the Republicans’ strong showing and the
continued inroads being made,” the organization said in a statement. “While the
Jews remain a loyal Democratic constituency, that loyalty is
“For Democrats, getting just 66% of the Jewish vote is deeply
distressing, and it will be increasingly difficult for Democrats to win if we
alienate a core constituency, one which is critical not just at the ballot box,
but in helping candidates get the support they need to run effective campaigns,”
said Josh Block, former AIPAC spokesman and Clinton administration
official. Block recently launched a strategic consulting firm.
Democratic pollster Jim Gerstein, who carried out the survey for J Street, said
that the numbers didn’t show “much of an impact” and were still “very strong” in
the face of a difficult year for Democrats.
“It stands to reason that the
Congressional vote would be lower than 2008 because of the Obama wave. He just
struck a chord at a moment,” he said. “Now we are in a completely
different political environment that swept across the country and affected all
University of Florida political scientist Ken Wald said
the key numbers were how Jews compared to the nation as a whole, and noted that
Jewish voters, like Americans generally, were most concerned about the
“Jews remain pro-Democratic outliers,” he said.