The 2012 Election is still sixteen months away, but the discussions about whether President Obama will be able to retain the same large portion of the Jewish vote as he did in 2008 remains a hot topic for the third straight week. Today the article comes from the Washington Post, whose fact checker Glenn Kessler wrote a piece today about Jews and the Presidential vote which contained major factual mistakes. These mistakes are designed to call into question the motivation of Republican candidates who support Israel as well as the American Jews who oppose the President’s Middle East policy.
The article, “Obama and Israel: stalled diplomacy or ‘suspicion and distrust’?” begins with quotations from GOP presidential candidates Romney, Pawlenty and Bachmann, all criticizing Obama’s policy toward Israel.
The latest Gallup poll shows that President Obama has 60 percent approval rating among Jewish Americans. Jews generally are a reliable vote for Democrats, and in the 2008 election, exit polls show Obama received 78 percent of the Jewish vote. That gap has sent GOP hearts aflutter, though the polling should be viewed with caution; 60 percent approval is still 14 percent higher than the president’s overall approval rating.
Still, GOP candidates for president sense an opening. A line attacking Obama and his policies on Israel is now a standard part of their stump speeches. The question is whether these attacks are fair or accurate?
Kessler has a logic flaw here. He is correct in saying that Jews are generally a reliable vote democrats (according to Gallup 66% of Jews are Democrats), since that is the case, why would he compare it to the total population of which only 45% of which are Democrats. Obama’s support from Democrats is much more stable than that of independent and GOP voters. If the Jewish support of Obama is compared to a re-weighted general population approval (66% Democrat) we find that Obama is losing Jewish support much faster than the general population (the full explanation and analysis can be found here).
Should Obama receive only 60% of the Jewish vote in 2012 (which is unlikely), it would be the lowest Democratic total since Jimmy Carter in 1980).
I would also take issue with Kessler’s contention that these candidates are attacking Obama on Israel because they see an opening. While my knowledge of Governor Pawlenty’s Israel history is weak, the other two candidate’s history of supporting Israel is very strong. Michele Bachmann spent time living in Israel on a kibbutz, and Romney made similar strong statements regarding Israel during the 2008 campaign, before Obama was even nominated. Maybe he can’t comprehend the fact that Israel is not just a “Jewish issue.” Some politicians even support Israel because it is the right thing to do for America. Granted it is a foreign concept for a progressive newspaper such as the Washington Post, but it does happen.
For example, regarding the scheduled peace conference at Annapolis between Israelis and Palestinians, Romney’s statement was
“How could you possibly have a peace conference at this stage?” he asked. “Who would you talk to?” (Republican Jewish Coalition forum of GOP presidential candidates, JTA, October 16, 2007)
Kessler goes on the make the GOP criticism of Obama a bigger deal than the candidates have made it:
We would be foolish to venture an opinion on each side’s collection of historical facts because, seriously, it is a no-win situation. But Obama’s treatment of Israel has become such a key part of the GOP arsenal that it is worth exploring the president’s performance.
While it is always relevant to evaluate a president’s performance during a reelection campaign, his characterization of Obama’s treatment of Israel becoming a key part of the GOP arsenal belies the truth. If he were following the same campaign as the rest of us, Mr. Kessler would understand that the “key part of the GOP arsenal” is the economy, number two, three, and for are the economy, the economy and the economy.