For the last year or more, Democrats have been scoffing at the notion they are worried about retaining their hold on the Jewish vote. But the news that the Democratic National Committee spent a portion of its Friday meeting in Chicago trying to school its major donors and fundraisers to “Jewish messaging” makes it clear they know they are in trouble.
The prospect of a Republican victory in the heavily Jewish 9th New York congressional district special election on Tuesday is just the tip of the iceberg. Anger in the Jewish community about President Obama’s less-than-friendly attitude toward Israel has affected vital fundraising for the Democrats as well as raising the prospect the GOP will increase its share of the Jewish vote in 2012. Apparently, after nearly a century of dominance in the Jewish community, Democrats feel they have to start teaching themselves how to craft a message to a group second only to African Americans in terms of loyalty to their party. But any message that attempts to rally support for a president whose economic policies are failing badly as well as having a record of picking fights with Israel is going to be a tough sell.
It’s true most Jews are not single-issue voters who only care about Israel. Many are die-hard liberals who will never vote for a Republican no matter how often Obama offended Jewish sensibilities on Israel. But some Jewish centrists and even some liberals are not indifferent to the fact Israelis consider Obama to be the least friendly American president in recent memory. Add in the fact that, like most Americans, Jewish voters understand Obama is an indecisive leader who inherited a shaky economy and made it worse, and that’s a recipe for potential electoral disaster.
The one factor Democrats still have going for them is that most liberal Jews are still far more fearful of pro-Israel evangelical Christians because of their stand on church-state separation than they are of Iran, Hamas, Hezbollah or even al-Qaeda. That means a candidate like Rick Perry will likely struggle to improve on John McCain’s poor showing among Jewish voters in 2008 despite doubts about Obama on Israel. That will mean the Democrat “message” to Jews will have far more to do with scaremongering about evangelicals as well as the usual liberal Medicare tactics about entitlement cuts than it will about Obama’s virtues. But that doesn’t necessarily solve Democratic fundraising woes or save weak congressional candidates like David Weprin in NY-9.
Though the Democrats are still in a relatively strong position vis-à-vis Jews, they know Obama is a weak incumbent who has already lost the trust of this community. Their only hope to extend their winning streak among Jews is to demonize their Republican foes.