As I discussed in my previous post, a majority of Jewish voters will probably stick with Barack Obama next year no matter how bad his relationship gets with Israel. But that does not mean a significant shift in the Jewish vote might not occur. Though many Jews either don’t care about Israel or even actively identify with those who want more U.S. pressure on it, there are still a large number of liberal Democratic Jews who are passionate supporters of Israel. As their support for Obama in 2008 demonstrated, their standards for judging Democrats are far more lenient than those applied to Republicans. But it is simply untrue to claim this group is unaware of or unmoved by Obama’s hostile actions, or the basic fact most Israelis view the president as an adversary of their country.
It is this group that may account for as much as 20 percent or more of the Jewish vote. That total is the difference between the nearly 80 percent Obama garnered in 2008 and the combined vote for Jimmy Carter and John Anderson in 1980 that came to nearly 60 percent, which represents the historic low point for the Democrats in terms of the Jewish vote. It is this group that could make up as much as a fifth or more of all Jewish voters who are in play in 2012.
Is that something for Democrats to worry about? You bet it is. Although one out of five votes of a group that makes up less than two percent of the total U.S. population may seem insignificant, a swing of 10 to 20 percentage points in the Jewish vote in key states like Pennsylvania or Florida could decide the election in a close race.
These voters could abandon Obama if they feel they have a palatable pro-Israel alternative. That is the tricky part of the equation. While these people may be thinking of jumping the Democratic ship because of Obama’s attitude toward Israel, they will not vote for any Republican who is rightly perceived as a better friend and ally to the Jewish state. In fact, if faced with a choice between a Republican who is identified with the Christian right, it may not matter how pro-Israel they are–many would either reluctantly return to Obama or simply stay home on Election Day.
For a breakdown of how the current contenders might stack up with Jewish voters, read my next post.