Bi­den ap­peals to Jews to head off Repub­li­can in­roads

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics -

Demo­cratic vice-pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee Sen. Joseph R. Bi­den Jr. touted an “un­stint­ing” record of de­fend­ing Is­rael as he stumped in South Florida Sept. 2 to shore up sup­port among Jewish vot­ers, a usu­ally re­li­able Demo­cratic bloc that Repub­li­cans are ag­gres­sively court­ing this year.

The town-hall meet­ing with a mostly Jewish crowd in Deer­field Beach, Fla., un­der­scored Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee Sen. Barack Obama’s un­ease about at­tract­ing Jewish vot­ers, whose de­fec­tion would di­lute the party’s dom­i­nance in South Florida and could tip the statewide race — and Florida’s prized 27 elec­toral votes — to pre­sump­tive Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee Sen. John McCain.

Mr. Bi­den rat­tled off a litany of pro-Is­rael stances that he has sup­ported, in­clud­ing block­ing U.S. arms sales to Arab states, and as­sured the crowd Mr. Obama shared his un­yield­ing de­vo­tion to the Jewish state.

“My sup­port [for Is­rael] starts in my gut and goes to my heart and then to my brain,” said the Delaware Demo­crat, not­ing his role as chair­man of the Se­nate For­eign Re­la­tions Com­mit­tee. “I would not have given up that job to be Barack Obama’s vice pres­i­dent if I didn’t in my gut and in my heart and in my head know that Barack Obama is ex­actly where I am on Is­rael. He is.”

Florida House Ma­jor­ity Leader Adam Has­ner, Boca Ra­ton Repub­li­can and co-chair­man of the McCain cam­paign’s Jewish steer­ing com­mit­tee, said the Bi­den event at Cen­tury Vil­lage, a large se­nior cit­i­zens com­mu­nity and Demo­cratic bas­tion in Broward County, high­lighted Mr. Obama’s weak­ness with Jewish vot­ers in the Sun­shine State.

“If Se­na­tor Obama thought they had the Jewish com­mu­nity sewed up, they wouldn’t be cam­paign­ing down in the Jewish com­mu­nity,” Mr. Has­ner said by tele­phone from the Repub­li­can con­ven­tion in St. Paul, Minn. “They rec­og­nize that more Jewish vot­ers are trend­ing to­ward Se­na­tor McCain than for any Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial can­di­date ever be­fore.”

He said Jewish vot­ers are mi­grat­ing to Mr. McCain be­cause of his for­eign pol­icy and mil­i­tary ex­pe­ri­ence and his long record of sup­port for Is­rael. “He un­der­stands the threats to­ward Is­rael and the com­pli­cated world we live in,” Mr. Has­ner said.

Florida Demo­cratic Party spokesman Eric Jotkoff in­sisted that Jewish sup­port for Mr. Obama re­mained solid.

“The Jewish com­mu­nity through­out South Florida rec­og­nizes that John McCain wants to pri­va­tize So­cial Se­cu­rity and keep troops in Iraq for 100 years,” he said. “Jewish vot­ers don’t sup­port that.”

Uni­ver­sity of Florida po­lit­i­cal sci­ence pro­fes­sor Kenneth D. Wald dis­missed the no­tion of a Jewish swing vote. He said the Bi­den visit likely aimed to dis­pel mis­in­forma- tion spread on the In­ter­net about Mr. Obama, such as claims that he is a Mus­lim, and to touch base with core Demo­cratic sup­port­ers be­fore woo­ing un­de­cided vot­ers.

“The only ques­tion of Jews will be the level of turnout,” he said, not­ing that his­tor­i­cally about 75 per­cent of Jews vote Demo­cratic.

Re­cent polls show a sta­tis­ti­cal dead heat in the state. In a Ma­sonDixon sur­vey two weeks ago, Mr. Obama led 45 per­cent to Mr. McCain’s 44 per­cent, while a Quin­nip­iac poll showed Mr. McCain with a four-point ad­van­tage, 47 per­cent to 43 per­cent.

Mr. Bi­den re­called for the crowd that when each of his two sons turned 15, he took them to visit the Nazi con­cen­tra­tion camp in Dachau, Ger­many. He said he wanted it to be their “first ex­pe­ri­ence and ex­po­sure” to the lessons of the Holo­caust — that there is al­ways the threat of an­other geno­cide un­less peo­ple act.

“I don’t say it for ap­plause,” Mr. Bi­den said. “I say it to let you know where my heart is and how strongly I feel about this. [. . . ] It has noth­ing to do with pol­i­tics.”

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