Exit polls in Florida are showing that Jews only made up one percent of the electorate in today’s Republican primary. Since that is down from three percent in the 2008 GOP primary, Nate Silver of the New York Times concludes that this may show a lack of enthusiasm for the Republican field among Jews. That might mean, he writes, there may be reason for Democrats to think Jewish resentment of President Obama’s attitude toward Israel may not be carrying over into the 2012 election. But Democrats would be foolish to seize on such flimsy evidence for proof they are not in trouble with Jewish voters.
It is true that a drop in GOP Jewish registration shows none of the candidates generated enough Jewish buzz to get more voters to switch party affiliation as in 2008. But the comparison is unfair, because the man who drove that mini-surge in Jewish Republican voters was Rudy Giuliani. Though he flopped in the Florida primary four years ago, the former mayor of New York was a big favorite of the Jewish and pro-Israel community. None of this year’s Republican crop can claim that kind of loyalty from Jews, but the ultimate winner of the GOP nomination will have one thing going for him: he’ll be running against an incumbent president who is rightly viewed by many Jews as having distanced himself from Israel.
Florida is a state where Jewish swing voters could affect the outcome in November. That’s why Obama is trying so hard to make Jews forget his record of non-stop quarrels with Israel’s government in the last three years. Any Republican, especially a relative moderate like Mitt Romney, will be well-placed to take advantage of this Democratic problem.