We have seen, to the chagrin of the left, more attention in an off-year election on Israel than we get in most presidential races. The Emergency Committee for Israel and the Republican Jewish Coalition have reasons to crow. ECI made Joe Sestak its top priority, featured him in its debut ad, and remained a thorn in his side throughout the race. The RJC spent an unprecedented amount of money on the race. These groups didn’t target Joe Sestak by accident or pick an easy race. Sestak was the quintessential faux pro-Israel liberal — touting his support for the Jewish state but signing onto the Gaza 54 letter, headlining for CAIR, and refusing to break with the president on his offensive against the Jewish state. For precisely these reasons, J Street made him its top priority. Sestak lost in a tough race. Was Israel a factor? In a close race, it is hard to say it wasn’t. The question for liberal Democrats is this: why take on the baggage of J Street for such little help and so many headaches?
J Street’s other Senate endorsees lost as well (Robin Carnahan and Russ Feingold). In the House races, their endorsees lost in 11 races. Shoe-in Democrats won in seven races that were not in doubt. However, once ECI targeted the NJ-12, that safe Dem seat became competitive, with Democratic Rep. Rush Holt eventually winning by seven points. Several races are still outstanding.
The election demonstrated two things. First, J Street is a weight around the necks of its selected candidates. Second, the voters, Jewish and not, heard more about Israel than in an ordinary midterm and dumped some of the worst Israel-bashers in the House, including Mary Jo Kilroy and Kathy Dahlkemper. The takeaway: voters remain overwhelmingly pro-Israel, and should candidates want to avoid the impression that they are not, they’d do well to steer clear of the foreign-funded J Street.