The Republican Jewish Coalition just had a conference call on the Jewish vote. As you might know by now, Obama performed better among Jews than John Kerry did in 2004, despite the hype about some early polls showing Obama having troubles with these voters (I share the blame for making too much out of these numbers). And he did so well for many now-obvious reasons.
Yet the RJC makes an interesting case. Obama didn’t really do as well as people might assume. In this election cycle, the Democrats have gained among all voter groups. And comparing Jews to, say, Catholics or Latinos, the gains Obama made among Jews are not quite as impressive. It’s true that he did get more Jewish votes than Kerry. But he got fewer than both Al Gore and Bill Clinton.
Two other things the RJC is now trying to argue: that the Democrats had to invest much more effort with the Jewish vote this time, and that concerns about Obama losing Jewish voters made the candidate more prone to give pro-Israel speeches. In essence, the Jewish Republicans are trying to take some of the credit for the making of the pro-Israel-Obama.
Do I buy all these arguments? To some extent.
Politicians understand pressure. Obama (I think) felt pressured on Israel, and he made the necessary adjustments. This does not mean that the positions he espoused aren’t genuine.
That Obama didn’t perform as well as Gore and Clinton is also true. But I think the reason for the small difference is simple. The Orthodox Jewish community is slowly growing, and–by and large–that’s the group voting Republican. This means that the GOP share will keep going up, but in a gradual, slow way.
Bottom line: The Democrats did have to work a bit harder to hold their ground. They were able to prove, yet again, that Jews are liberal Democrats. They proved that making Jews abandon their party will be very difficult to do. They proved that the Jewish-Democratic alliance is rock solid. I’ll try to remember that until 2012, and beyond.