HOW MUCH OF JEWISH VOTE DOES OBAMA NEED? DEPENDS ON WHOSE NUMBERS YOU USEby John Lantigua | October 23rd, 2012
BOCA RATON — Former South Florida Democratic Congressman Robert Wexler of Boca Raton, now president of the Washington-based S. Daniel Abraham Center for Middle East Peace, says GOP claims that many Jews who voted for President Obama last time will not vote him this time due to his rocky relations with Israeli Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other missteps on Israel won’t come true.
But Wexler, who attended the third and last presidential debate Monday night at Lynn University, also claimed that exit poll numbers cited by the media after the 2008 election inflated Obama’s success with Florida Jews. The exit polls said Obama won 78 percent of that vote, while Wexler said he thought it was “more like 73 to 74 percent.”
“I think he’ll do low 70s again this time,” Wexler said.
In other words, Obama will not have to win as many Jewish votes in the state as some people think will need in order to match his performance last time.
Palm Beach County GOP Chairman Sid Dinerstein said he had never heard those lower numbers before.
“The number that’s always been out there was 78 percent,” Dinerstein said.
But he saidObama will not come close to the lower number either. He has predicted that Obama will win only around 60 percent of the Florida Jewish vote this year and that will be a major factor in handing the state to GOP challenger Mitt Romney.
Early in his presidency Obama angered some Jews when he stipulated that U.S.-led negotiations with Palestinians could only begin if Israelis stopped building settlements in disputed territories. He also made a trip during his first year in office to various Arab countries, but did not visit Israel, a point Romney emphasized during Monday night’s debate.
Obama supporters point out he visited Israel twice as a U.S. senator. During the debate he said while Romney had visited Israel to attend a political fundraiser, he had visited the national Holocaust museum and a town that had been hit by rockets fired by Israel’s enemies. That trip, he said, led to his winning Israel $70 million to build a system that will help Israelis protect their territories from short range rockets and also artillery –a system called Iron Dome.
Most experts on the Jewish vote are saying Obama will nonetheless lose some points, in part due to the slow economic recovery, but not as much as Dinerstein is hoping. But with 490,000 Jewish voters in the state, according to National Democratic Jewish Council, every percentage point will be important in a close race.
Wexler says he believes overall during his first four years Obama has proven himself a strong friend of Israel.
“President Obama has an A-plus record on Israel,” he said. “Right now the largest joint military operation ever between the U.S. and Israel is going on. He has also provided more money to Israel than any other president. And that includes Clinton and George W. Bush and they did pretty well.”
Wexler said that Obama has also derailed a “unilateral attempt” by Palestinians to achieve statehood via the United Nations,a move vehemently opposed by Israel.
– “And he is committed in the most unquestionable terms to preventing Iran from becoming a nuclear power,” he said. “No, ifs, ands or buts.”
The Jewish Federation of Palm Beach County will host an extension of the Monday’s presidential debate — with emphasis on Israel issues — on Thursday from 8-10 p.m. at the Palm Beach County Convention Center, 650 Okeechobee Blvd., West Palm Beach. Former Minnesota senator Norm Coleman,a Republican, will represent Romney and will face off against Wexler, who will represent the president.