President Obama and other leading Democrats are well aware of their party’s declining popularity with Jewish Americans a little more than a year before the 2016 presidential election.
A Gallup Poll in January found that 29 percent of Jewish Americans identify with Republicans, order up from 22 percent in 2008. Another Gallup poll, ailment in March, seek put Obama’s favorable rating among Jewish Americans at 50 percent, compared to 77 percent in 2009, the first year of his presidency.
And so in recent months Obama spoke at a large Conservative synagogue in Washington and gave interviews to an Israeli television station and to The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg, his favorite spinmeister to the nation’s Jews.
Democratic leaders even desperately trotted out former top Obama adviser David Axelrod to enlighten his fellow Jews with the claim that Obama once confided to him that “I am the closest thing to a Jew that has ever sat in this office.”
With savvy campaigning, the 2016 Republican nominee can exceed the highest Jewish voting percentages garnered by the party’s candidates since the early 1950s: Dwight Eisenhower’s 36 percent in 1952 and 40 percent in 1956; Richard Nixon’s 35 percent in 1972; Ronald Reagan’s 39 percent in 1980 and 31 percent in 1984; George H.W. Bush’s 35 percent in 1988; and Mitt Romney’s 30 percent in 2012.
During George H.W. Bush’s reelection campaign in 1991-92, the president and his secretary of state, James Baker, were tone-deaf to Jewish concerns, which caused Bush’s support among Jews to shrink to a mere 11 percent. It took the Republicans a generation and four presidential elections to win back the trust of a significant number of Jewish voters.
To exceed the post-World War II peak of 40 percent Jewish support for a Republican presidential candidate, next year’s GOP nominee must take pains not to convey President Bush’s seeming indifference to issues deemed important by American Jews.
Moreover, Republicans need to recognize the huge gender gap among Jews in terms of party loyalty. In January, 36 percent of Jewish males identified themselves to Gallup as Republican or leaning Republican and 54 percent as Democrat or leaning Democrat. At the same time, only 23 percent of Jewish women said they were Republican or leaned Republican, while 68 percent answered Democrat or leaning Democrat.
Similarly, in the aforementioned April Gallup Poll, Jewish men were evenly divided – 48-48 – over Obama’s performance in office; Jewish women, on the other hand, approved Obama’s job performance by an overwhelming majority – 59 percent to 37 percent.
Jewish-American women are not only the country’s most highly educated female voting demographic, they have also been major supporters – financial and otherwise – of Democrats. It’s no accident that the head of the Democratic National Committee, Florida representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz, is a Jewish woman. Six other Jewish Democratic women serve in the current Congress, while the last – and so far only! – Republican Jewish congresswoman, Florence Prag Kahn, served between 1925 and 1937.
The failure of Republicans to attract more Jewish women is exemplified by the board of directors of the Republican Jewish Coalition, which has 59 men, including business tycoons Sheldon Adelson and Bernard Marcus, former George W. Bush press secretary Ari Fleischer, and former U.S. senator Norm Coleman, but only six women, none of whom is a nationally recognized personality.
(Another major gap in this year’s two Gallup polls of Jewish political identification is between the “highly religious,” 42 percent of whom are Republican or Republican leaners, and the “not religious,” only 24 percent of whom are Republican or Republican leaners.)
During the upcoming presidential campaign, Republicans must bring to the nation’s Jewish communities speakers such as candidate Carly Fiorina, former secretary of state Condoleezza Rice, former Florida congressman Alan West, New Mexico governor Susan Martinez, South Carolina governor Nikki Haley, economist Thomas Sowell, and other prominent Republicans who are female, black, Hispanic, or Asian.
Highlighting the wide array of accomplished Republicans will demonstrate the party’s gender, racial, and ethnic diversity, which is routinely downplayed or ignored in the overwhelmingly liberal mainstream media.
Republican presidential candidates and their supporters must repeatedly emphasize that the last three Democratic presidents – Obama, Bill Clinton, and Jimmy Carter – were ineffective commanders-in-chief and conducted disastrous foreign policies.
The possibility of having Bill and Hillary Clinton back in the White House should frighten Jewish Americans, who must constantly be reminded that with the exception of ineffective cruise missile strikes in Afghanistan and Sudan after the bombings of the American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, Bill Clinton never retaliated for the many terror attacks against Americans during his eight years in office.
As for the Obama administration’s craven surrender to Iran’s demands in the nuclear-weapons negotiations, it was hardly an anomaly, capping years of appeasement and retreat on the part of the United States under this president.
To prevent the U.S. from descending to the banana republic level of Argentina, Republicans must conduct a smart and effective campaign to woo Jewish voters – and Jewish Republicans must make a superhuman effort to convince a majority of their fellow Jews to vote for the Grand Old Party in 2016.
About the Author: Mark Schulte is a prolific writer whose work has appeared in a number of publications including The Weekly Standard, New York Post, New York Daily News, and The Jewish Press.