WASHINGTON – The Clinton campaign is suffering from nightmares over the trauma of 2000, when America’s fate rested on placid Broward and Palm Beach counties and when voters there, largely Jewish, left their polling stations confused by their ballots.
Once again, Democrats see a national election of tremendous consequence on Tuesday possibly coming down to these voters – Floridians who, according to the Clinton campaign, have a unique opportunity to shut Donald Trump, the Republican presidential nominee, out of the White House.
Stumping in the pouring rain in Pembroke Pines on Saturday with Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, Sarah Bard, her national Jewish outreach director, said she is proud of how organized the Jewish community of Florida has been in its efforts to get out the vote.
But “this election is all about turnout,” she told The Jerusalem Post
. “So I think it’s a lot of what we’ve been saying all along, that everybody knows how important their vote is.”
“We know that this is going to be close,” she added. “Florida is going to be a 1% state.”
Indeed, statewide polling suggests a turbulent race for Florida’s 29 Electoral College votes. Out of the last 10 polls released on the state in the lead-up to election day, Trump leads in four of them.
And CBS News’ final tracking poll before the election, released on Sunday, found a dead heat, with Clinton and Trump both earning 45% of the Florida vote.
Clinton’s camp is driving hard at the Jewish vote not only to drive up turnout, but also to increase its margin of support.
“We’re talking to parts of the community that are not traditionally Democratic,” Bard said, noting the recruitment of former Senator Joseph Lieberman, the consummate moderate Democrat on foreign policy issues, to tour the state on Clinton’s behalf.
“There are some states where there are so many Jews, in what is an otherwise swing state, that a small fluctuation of the Jewish vote can make the difference,” said Steve Rabinowitz, a founder of Jewish Americans for Hillary two years ago and now of a pro-Clinton super PAC, Jews for Progress, that is focusing its efforts on Florida turnout.
Jews for Progress has crafted and funded an advertising campaign highly specific to Florida’s Jewish community – the only such effort from either side of the political aisle. The campaign includes live stumping and social media advertising pitches from Lieberman as well as a video compilation of Shimon Peres, Bibi Netanyahu, Ehud Barak and Tzipi Livni showering Clinton with praise over the years.
“We thought there was a void there, and if there were Jewish swing voters that for whatever reason couldn’t decide between the candidates, they weren’t being spoken to as individuals,” Rabinowitz explained. “Florida is the most targeted swing state, and its a very, very Jewish state.”
The super PAC released a final video on Sunday featuring current and former Jewish Democratic members of congress Ted Deutch, Ron Klein, Lois Frankel, Robert Wexler and Debbie Wasserman Schultz, making a specific appeal to Jewish Floridians.
“When it comes to keeping America and our allies like Israel safe, there’s nothing more important than having a reliable ally in the White House,” they said in a video mash-up. “There’s only one candidate who’s been our consistent and reliable friend.”
Bard is confident that Jewish voters contributed to a boost in early voting numbers in Broward County – Democrats had an edge of over 188,500 ballots there at the end of early voting, amounting to a greater lead than in the last election cycle – but she says her team will not let off the gas pedal until Tuesday evening.
“We’re seeing voters that may not have been with us the last cycle,” Bard said. “We’re running a grassroots campaign, and not taking any votes for granted.”