How are Republicans, Democrats reaching out to Jewish voters?

AMERICAN AFFAIRS: The Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) and the Jewish Democratic Council of America (JDCA) are already in election mode and are focused mostly on Jewish voters in swing states.

How will US President Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden's respective campaigns reach out to Jewish voters? (photo credit: LEAH MILLS/KEVIN LAMARQUE/REUTERS)
How will US President Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden's respective campaigns reach out to Jewish voters?
Labor Day weekend officially marks the home stretch of the presidential election cycle. With both conventions in the rearview mirror and the beginning of in-person voting in 14 days in the first states – Minnesota, Vermont, Virginia and New Jersey – parties are now invested in targeting voters in digital ads, phone calls and text messages, making sure their supporters are turning out to vote.
The Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) and the Jewish Democratic Council of America (JDCA) are already in election mode and are focused mostly on Jewish voters in swing states.
Halie Soifer, executive director for JDCA, told The Jerusalem Post that the organization had launched a six-figure digital ad spend on Wednesday to target Jewish voters in 14 key swing states.
“We have the voter files for almost two million Jewish voters, and we’re strategically targeting them online,” she said.
According to Soifer, JDCA will focus on swing states with a significant Jewish population, such as Florida, Pennsylvania, Arizona and Colorado.
“We have phone banks every night, we have a national phone bank every Tuesday, Wednesday, and Sunday, and then we have state-specific phone bank on other evenings. We also have a lot of evenings where we have multiple simultaneous events. Last week, we had 14 events.”
She also noted that JDCA will mostly reach out to Democrats and Independents.
Matt Brooks, the executive director for RJC, told the Post that the race is tightening and becoming more competitive.
“There’s no question people are fired up,” he said.
In the next two weeks, RJC will formally launch its Jewish outreach efforts on six key states.
“Florida obviously is at the top of the list, but Pennsylvania, Ohio, Georgia, Arizona and Michigan are the states that we’re focusing on,” Brooks said.
“We’ve been doing a lot of things behind the scenes in terms of the data mining analytics – voter file, phone calls. But now we will enter into the more public phase in terms of the advertising campaigns, the mail, and the ‘get out the vote’ efforts, including a very sophisticated effort to target, track and turn out people who are going to be voting by absentee ballot or early voting,” he continued.
“So we’re very excited, and we remain confident that because of the historic leadership of this president in terms of being the most pro-Israel president in history, we will increase the share of the Jewish vote 2020.
“We have built a state-of-the-art dashboard for us to use, in which we will have access in real time to those voters in our targeted voter file. We have made over 300,000 voter contact phone calls so far,” he added. “We will know specifically in real time if they’ve requested an absentee ballot. We will know in real time when that ballot has been submitted, and we’ll also know if they have voted early. So we will be able, once we know our target voters have requested an absentee ballot, to make sure that the ballot gets turned in and completed... and to make sure [there is] turnout on Election Day. I think that’s an incredible tool that we will be deploying this time.”
PROF. DOV WAXMAN is the director of the UCLA Y&S Nazarian Center for Israel Studies. He told the Post that there is a much greater partisan divide between Jewish Republicans and Democrats today than in the past, just as there is among Americans in general.
“The vast majority of American Jews are united in their opposition to President [Donald] Trump, so in that sense the community is more united than before he took office. But there is also more polarization between the minority of Jews who love Trump and the majority who loathe him,” he said.
“Broadly speaking, the majority of Orthodox Jews support the Republican Party (57% in a survey conducted by Pew in 2013), whereas the majority of Conservative and Reform Jews support the Democratic Party (77% of Reform Jews and 64% of Conservative Jews in the 2013 Pew survey),” said Waxman. “I haven’t seen any recent survey data showing how Orthodox, Conservative and Reform Jews plan to vote in the upcoming US presidential election, but in the 2016 presidential election, 54% of Orthodox Jews voted for Trump, compared with 24% of Conservative Jews and 10% of Reform Jews (according to a survey conducted by the American Jewish Committee in 2017). I expect similar numbers in the upcoming election.
“Israel is only a major election issue for Orthodox Jews,” he added. “The vast majority of American Jews are much more concerned with domestic issues, especially the economy and now the coronavirus. The Republican Party has repeatedly tried to make Israel a major wedge issue in US elections, in the hope that this will lead some Jewish voters to switch their support from the Democrats to the Republicans. These efforts have always failed. As long as both presidential candidates are perceived as pro-Israel – which they almost always are – then US policy towards Israel is not a big issue in presidential elections.”
Jacob Kornbluh is a national politics reporter for the Jewish Insider. He told the Post that Orthodox Jews, even those who are registered as Democrats in places like New York and New Jersey, tend to vote Republican in national elections, particularly for president, because the Republican Party is more aligned with their views on abortion, family and taxes.
“Reform Jews are mostly liberal when it comes to these issues, and therefore vote heavily for any Democrat,” he added.
“Most [Orthodox] families send off their kids to learn in yeshiva in Israel at age 16 and have relatives and rabbis there – so they travel a lot to the Jewish state and feel more connected.” Trump’s Israel policy “is not a determining factor in their vote, since Trump was popular in this community since he rode down the escalator in Trump Tower, but it obviously gives them another reason to contrast with the Democrats,” he continued.
“Among Reform and more progressive Jews, Israel never played a determining factor, but if it did, the long-standing support for Israeli defense funding and Trump’s unconventional approach allow them to claim the Democratic Party is just as pro-Israel as any political party in the US should be.”
Asked whether there is a more significant divide within the community compared to past election cycles, Kornbluh said that “there’s definitely more tension – because politics has become so toxic; but also because, for Jewish Democrats, supporting Trump is immoral and repugnant and not even a political issue anymore.”
“It has become more personal – because everything has become more personal,” he added.
Prof. Gil Troy, presidential historian at McGill University, told the Post that this electoral cycle “feels particularly nasty – so much so that pro-Trump and pro-Biden Jews just aren’t dealing with one another.
“I wish I could say that I anticipate a post-Election Day love in,” he said, when asked how the Jewish community could come together after the election. “My new book with Natan Sharansky, Never Alone, notes that we have and have always had all kinds of divisions, but we still should be in dialogue with one another,” he added.
“But the American Jewish scene reflects the American scene, and the likelihood of a post-Election Day ‘Kumbaya’ moment – given the passions, the hatred, the fury – is not very high, which is a shame. We should be able to put aside our differences after Election Day and celebrate democracy at work, but many of my US friends fear democracy won’t be working; and certainly, if their side loses, they will be really, really embittered.”
Soifer added that “this is the most divisive political moment I can remember in my lifetime.
“I think it’s the most divisive political moment in American history, because [in 2016] perhaps we were too confident, but we didn’t really think that Donald Trump could become president, just because it seemed like such an unimaginable reality. And even though we were concerned about it, it was hard to imagine what his presidency could look like. Now, four years in, we know exactly what it looks like, and it’s worse than we imagined,” she said. “I think that this is a true inflection point in American history.
Asked whether the community could come together after the election, she said: “I don’t know, I think that the Jewish community is deeply concerned about, first and foremost, the threats to our values as Americans and as Jews and the threats to our community posed by extremist groups that have been emboldened by Donald Trump.”
Presented with the same question, about how the community could put differences aside on November 4, Brooks said: “It’s something I think a lot about. And I hope that regardless of the outcome of the election, our community will hopefully be able to come together in these unsettled times.
“It is not good for the Jewish community to be as polarized and divisive as we currently are. So I hope that we’ll have a coming together after the election, regardless of the results, because I think it’s important for our community to be able to work together and to do the important things that we need to do in terms of strengthening our community,” Brooks added.