Mitt Romney has had an up-and-down week with the Jewish vote, or perhaps, more accurately, a down-and-up one. The GOP candidate began the week taking hits from Democratic activists over a 2007 Hitler comment, but is ending it on an upnote with rumors circling that he may be among those crowding the passport checks at Ben Gurion Airport this summer.
The current Hitler-gate made tempest in a teacup seem like a typhoon in a teaspoon. Democratic Jewish activists claimed that the presidential hopeful had somehow said that Hitler “did something right”. In fact, what Romney said (in a 2007 video) was the following non-complimentary, and well, non-sentence:
In discussing the use of liquefied coal, Romney said: “Liquefied coal -- Gosh, Hitler during the Second World War, I guess, because he was concerned about losing his oil, liquefied oil, that technology is still there.” IMHO, this was somewhat akin to announcing “Hitler used bombers”. Not exactly a ringing endorsement.
Whatever it was meant to be, it proved a non-starter for Democrats who are worried because, as they feared, Obama’s support has, in fact, apparently dropped among Jewish voters.
If the latest attempt to ding Romney’s Jewish support – which is still significantly below 50% - wasn’t successful, the Romney camp’s latest attempt to raise it might be.
The GOP hopeful, who in an AJC survey last month received just under 30% of the Jewish vote, `has neither confirmed or denied the rumors that abound that he is planning to pay a visit to Israel in the coming months. The visit would draw attention among pro-Israel voters to one of President Barack Obama’s perennial weak spots: the president has visited almost three dozen countries during his presidency, including Egypt, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Turkey – but not Israel. The last time Obama visited Israel was prior to his election in 2008.
Romney was last in Israel as part of a January 2011 visit to the region, shortly before officially beginning his campaign for the presidency. He met with his friend from the Boston Consulting Group, Binyamin Netanyahu, who issued a statement following the meeting saying that the two had discussed security issues.
While the campaign hasn’t commented on the travel rumors, which have picked up speed in recent days, other Republicans are eager to see such a move.
National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Pete Sessions told conservative site Newsmax that such a visit would be “a good idea” for the former Massachusetts governor. A Jewish Republican activist told the Israeli site Globes that a trip to Israel would be a genius move by Romney.”
Will he really go?
The last relevant comment from the candidate himself came way back in November, eons ago in campaignland, when Romney promised the Republican Jewish Coalition that Israel would be the first foreign visit he would make as president.
Trying to make a niche for himself between the Hebrew-quoting Michelle Bachman and Newt Gingrich’s competitive embracing of Netanyahu, Romney said at the RJC’s Candidates’ Forum that such a trip “will reaffirm as a vital national interest Israel’s existence as a Jewish state. I want the world to know that the bonds between Israel and the United States are unshakable.”
With the same AJC study that showed Romney hovering below 30% of the Jewish vote also showing a 17% drop in Jewish support for Obama, Romney hopes that other bonds – like Jewish support for the Democratic candidate – might be more “shakeable”.
In that case, while a trip to Israel might help, the very willingness to take a trip might not hurt for a point or two either. For Romney this week, rumors may have spoken louder than words, but even those rumors could be worth votes as the campaign season heats up over the summer.