Bob Turner 311.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Up until Tuesday night’s surprise victory of Republican Bob Turner over
Democratic David Weprin in the heavily Jewish and Democratic 9th New York
Congressional District, news of US President Barack Obama’s waning support among
American Jews was largely anecdotal.
RELATED:Pro-Israel Republican Bob Turner wins Weiner’s NY seat
Every once in a while stories of
traditionally-Democratic Jews articulating deep concern for Obama’s treatment of
Israel would appear in the general media or US political websites. There was
also the occasional story about Jews who donate large amounts to the Democratic
Party saying that as a result of their disenchantment with the White House’s
Middle East policies, in the next election cycle they would think
In addition to the anecdotal evidence, there were also the
Number-crunchers looked at the exit polls from the
2008 Presidential election that showed that Obama took 78 percent of the Jewish
vote, compared that with polls that showed the Democrats took “just” 66% of the
Jewish vote in the midterm 2010 election, noted that the president’s approval
rating in the summer among Jews was “only” 60%, and concluded that Obama was
losing the Jews.
Not all the Jews – not even a majority of the Jews – but
enough to make a difference in the 2012 presidential election.
victory over Weprin Tuesday showed that this thesis no longer exists only in the
anecdotal or extrapolatory realm.
Turner’s victory was the most serious
sign of erosion to date in American-Jewish support for Obama; the most serious
shot from the Jewish community across the White House’s bow; the most serious
message from Jewish voters of concern about the president’s stand on
And while it is undeniable that Israel was not the only issue in
the campaign, it is equally undeniable that it was among the top issues. The
other major issue was the economy.
History has shown that as one specific
factor, Israel is not enough to drive Jews to vote against a Democratic
But put Israel together with a faltering economy that is also
impacting negatively on America’s Jews, and more Jews than usual may currently be ready to bolt the Democrats than in the
New York’s election shows Obama is in trouble with significant
swaths of US Jews. To give an indication of how much dissatisfaction there is,
keep in mind that New York’s 9th District has not voted for a Republican
congressman since 1920, and that Weprin is an Orthodox Jew who is a strong
supporter of Israel.
Ari Fleischer, former White House press secretary
under George W. Bush, said at a panel discussion at the AIPAC conference in May
that if Obama wins over the Jews 4:1, as he did last time, he wins the next
election; but that if he only takes the Jews 3:1, he’s in trouble.
shift of a few percentage votes among Jews in 2012 in key battleground states
with large Jewish populations such as Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania, could have
a huge impact in a close presidential race.
Some will say that the Jews
who live in the Queens and Brooklyn neighborhoods that make up the 9th District
that was up for grabs Tuesday – the district that once belonged to disgraced
ex-congressman Anthony Weiner – are not reflective of American Jewish
demographics: that the Jews there tend to be more religious and more Russian
than the national average, which makes them more conservative.
the Jewish demographics in southern Florida, where presidential elections have
been won and lost before, does reflect to some degree the demographics in Queens
and Brooklyn, as many of the Jews in south Florida hail from areas represented
in the contested congressional district: Kew Gardens, Forest Hills and
None of this, obviously, is lost on the Obama
administration, which, by appointing an empathetic and sympathetic ambassador to
Israel, Dan Shapiro, earlier this year, and hiring veteran Jewish political
insider Ira Forman in August as its Jewish liaison, is taking what it has
described as its “messaging” problem to the Jewish community very seriously, and
trying to correct it.
An indication of how serious the problem is being
taken came earlier this week, when the National Jewish Democratic Coalition sent
out an e-mail blast highlighting Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s warm
expression of gratitude to Obama Saturday for what he did to free the six
Israeli security guards holed up in the ransacked Israeli embassy in
It is safe to say that this email blast – obviously intended to
show American Jews how much Obama does care about Israel – made its way into the
inbox of thousands of Jewish voters who went to the poll in New York’s special
election on Tuesday. Apparently, however, it didn’t make much of a
The lesson is clear: It will take much more from Washington, and
many more heartfelt expressions of gratitude from Netanyahu to Obama, to
convince a significant part of the American Jewish community that former New
York mayor Ed Koch was wrong when, while campaigning for Turner in New York’s
9th District, said Obama “is willing to toss it [Israel] under the bus.”