Jewish districts in Ohio help hand key state to Romney

Romney racks up key victories in six states on Super Tuesday, propelling him closer to the Republican presidential nomination.

By HILARY LEILA KRIEGER, JPOST CORRESPONDENT
March 8, 2012 02:33
3 minute read.
GOP candidate Mitt Romney.

Mitt Romney Super Tuesday glum 390. (photo credit: REUTERS/Brian Snyder )

 
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WASHINGTON – Districts with large concentrations of Jewish voters were key to GOP contender Mitt Romney’s margin of victory in Ohio, according to a longtime Jewish Republican activist.

Merom Brachman, who has previously served as a delegate to the GOP national convention, pointed to Romney’s success in Cleveland and Cincinnati as well as both cities’ surrounding suburbs, areas where the lion’s share of Ohio’s Jews live.

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“It was the clearest separation I’ve seen in 25 years,” Brachman said of the geographical divide in the vote for the Republican nomination.

Romney racked up key victories in six states on Super Tuesday, propelling him closer to the Republican presidential nomination.

However, his chief competitor Rick Santorum also picked up wins in Tennessee, Oklahoma and North Dakota, while Newt Gingrich took his home state of Georgia with neither showing signs of dropping out. The final candidate, Ron Paul, fared the worst, failing to capture a single state, including some seen as his best shot at a victory.

Romney prevailed Tuesday in Massachusetts, where he served as governor, Vermont, Virginia, Alaska and Idaho, many of which he won by considerable margins. But the win he eked out in the key swing state of Ohio was the most significant.

Another Ohio winner Tuesday was Josh Mandel, the Jewish state treasurer who now becomes the Republican candidate for Senate against incumbent Democrat Sherrod Brown. In contrast, US Representative Dennis Kucinich, a frequent critic of Israel, lost his spot as the Democratic candidate.

The Ohio vote for Romney (38 percent) and Santorum (37%) fractured cleanly along urban-suburban versus rural lines, demonstrating that Romney still faces a challenge in winning over conservative values voters.

Brachman said that Ohio’s Jewish Republicans tend to be in the “mainstream” of the party, which is connected to their general support for Romney, who he also supports.

He said Jewish voters saw him as more understanding and compatible on the range of issues important to them, from an activist foreign policy to the separation of church and state.

While Santorum has emphasized a robust international approach, he has also criticized the separation of church and state; Paul, in contrast, has called for an isolationist American foreign policy and elimination of foreign aid, including to Israel.

Brachman added that Israel was the top issue for the Jewish GOP electorate.

“There is no question that the top concern across the board among Republican Jewish vote... is standing up for Israel’s security,” he said.

“It wasn’t subliminal. It was right up front.”

Romney, Santorum and Gingrich all took time from their final day of Super Tuesday campaigning to address the AIPAC Policy Conference, where they stressed their commitment to Israel and the need for a tough approach to Iran.

While those positions clearly resonated with the thousands of Americans at the Washington convention center, as they did with Ohio’s Jewish voters, those issues were not otherwise at the heart of Tuesday’s vote, political experts said.

“The number one predictor is the economy,” said Republican campaign strategist Mike Murphy, speaking at a political roundtable during the AIPAC conference. “Foreign policy doesn’t count until it counts – but it may suddenly count, and Iran may suddenly count.”

“Foreign policy will be an overriding issue in terms of what’s next for America,” said pollster John Zogby, who spoke at the State Department’s Foreign Press Center during Super Tuesday.

“It’s to be expected that Republicans will talk about going to war, about taking a strong position against Iran, about the safety and security of Israel,” he said, explaining that was “not so much because of the Jewish vote, but because of the evangelical vote, which comprises a significant portion of the total Republican vote.”

On the Super Tuesday vote, however, he said: “It’s the economy. By and large, that’s the number-one issue.”

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