(photo credit: courtesy)
Lets take a look at
the 2012 field of Presidential candidates from the Israeli point of
view. As you might not remember, when we started the 2006 Israel Factor,
we had a list of 24 candidates to rank. It took a while for most of
them to disappear, but even then the list was not a short one. The 2008
race was open in both parties, and candidates had entered the primary
season in droves. This time the list is still long, but not as long. For
the time being our assumption will be that President Obama will not be
contested by fellow Democrats, so it is really the Republicans we are
after – and, of course, the comparison between prospective Republican
nominees and the sitting President.
As I’ve noted in my earlier analysis to this first 2010 Israel Factor survey (read it here),
both the Tea Party movement and its most celebrated leader, Governor
Sarah Palin, are not quite popular with our team of panelists (list of
panelists, and their bios here).
But in the case of Palin, it is worth noting that the view is not
unanimous. Three of the panelists did give her reasonable marks, while
the other gave her almost the lowest marks possible. That is how she
ended up ranking so low – higher only than Ron Paul, which is no
brainer. Interestingly though, three panelists ranked Palin higher than
President Obama – and even more interestingly, these aren’t the three
giving her a 6 or more.
The three highest-ranking Republican
candidates on our list are: Rudy Giuliani, Mitt Romney and John Thune.
For Giuliani, this is the second time to reach the top of our panel’s
wish list. He was the candidate the (somewhat different) panel wanted in
2006, and he's the one getting the highest marks today. His hawkish
views on foreign affairs, combined with his relative moderateness on
domestic and cultural issues, along with his familiarity with Israel and
with America’s Jewish community all make him an appealing candidate. Of
course, there is no sign he is even going to run. So, from the more
probable 2012 candidates it is Romney and Thune. Let’s see how they both
ranked against Barack Obama:
Barak Obama: 4.714285714
Mitt Romney: 6.666666667
John Thune: 6.666666667
of caution: Romney is really the one to look at. While Romney was
ranked by all panelists - and got good grades from all but one - Thune
was ranked only by those in the panel feeling that they know enough
about him, and that is hardly the whole group. Thus, I’d assume that
Romney, whom the panel is more familiar with (since he was already a
candidate in 2008), is someone most panelists see favorably while Thune
is someone towards which they have positive outlook, but are far from
actually deciding that he would be a candidate that they could actually
A couple of other notable things in this first round of ranking:
General David Petraeus was ranked by all panel members, and is not seen
as Israel’s greatest friend. Maybe it’s the problematic history Israel
has with retired American generals turned politicians (Marshal,
Eisenhower, Powell). But I would assume it has more to do with Petraeus’
troubling remarks related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
2. The three candidates on whom the panel is most polarized are Obama,
Newt Gingrich and Mike Huckabee. Obama got 1 from some and 8 from
others. Gingrich’s and Huckabee’s marks spread from 2 to 9. This means
that with these three, the average barely tells the real story. Some
like them a lot, others see them as dangerous to Israel. My assumption:
The Israeli public as a whole is much more likely to identify with those
panelists who dislike Obama. Our panel – when it comes to Obama – is
more forgiving, more sympathetic than the general view of Israeli
citizens (this does not mean that the panel is wrong – it only means
that it is not fully reflective of Israeli public opinion).
3. It is worth noting, though, that 13 Republican candidates are seen more favorably than Obama even by this panel.
4. There are a couple of candidates that the panel doesn’t yet know well
enough: Barbour, Daniels, Thune, Jindal and Johnson. Their marks should
be treated more cautiously, since not all panelists even ranked them.