An East Brunswick man appears in the first of a series of Republican political ads featuring disappointed Jewish supporters of President Barack Obama.
Michael Goldstein is described as a Democrat-turned-Romney supporter in the video, created by the Republican Jewish Coalition.
The RJC previewed the Goldstein commercial July 25 in what it called a “multi-million dollar effort to reach out to Jewish voters.” The RJC calls the campaign, to run in swing states, “Buyer’s Remorse.”
On camera, Goldstein says he had been “a big Obama supporter” who hosted a fundraiser and gave money to his campaign in 2008.
“I really believed in him and believed in what he stood for,” he says in the ad, until the president’s moves on Israel, especially his “speech about the '67 borders…really changed my mind.”
When Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited the White House in November 2011, Goldstein said, Obama “was disrespectful to him in way I had never seen.”
“I am a lifelong Democrat,” Goldstein says at the end of the ad, which lasts 90 seconds. “I have never voted for a Republican for president. But this time I am going to vote or a Republican for president.”
In an interview with NJJN, Goldstein said a Republican friend urged him to contact the RJC after learning of his disappointment with Obama.
“I was a little hesitant,” he said.
But after an RJC official asked Goldstein if he was a Democrat who intended to cast his first Republican vote for presumptive candidate Mitt Romney, and would he be willing to appear in a commercial, “I said ‘absolutely’.”
The appearance on-camera was strictly voluntary. “I paid for my own lunch and I paid for the subway. They didn’t give me a nickel,” he said.
Goldstein is an administrator at a New York City community college and a board member of Hatikvah Academy, the Hebrew-language charter school in East Brunswick where his nine-year-old daughter is enrolled. He attends services at the East Brunswick home of Chabad Rabbi Aryeh Goodman.
Goldstein, who described himself as a “liberal Democrat” all his life, said he changed sides because “I felt I had been lied to. I believed Obama was going to be a supporter of Israel or if not a supporter of Israel, he would maintain a balanced view. I didn’t think he would be worse than Jimmy Carter. At least with Carter at Camp David, I felt [Carter] was an honest broker, especially when it came to dealing with Arafat. But I think Obama doesn’t believe in the state of Israel. That truly is troubling to me. So I said ‘this is not the guy for me anymore.’”
In the video, Goldstein also criticizes the president's handling of economic and unemployment issues.
Goldstein said he intends to campaign for Romney in Pennsylvania and Florida “on my own dime.”
But he insisted that his conversion is only partial.
“I am not coming at it from a conservative point of view. I agree with Obama on gay marriage. I am against assault weapons. I am against armor-piercing bullets. There are parts of Obamacare I am 100 percent for,” he said.
He said he will continue “to vote Democratic down the line,” splitting his ticket to support Robert Menendez for senator and Rush Holt for the House.
Nevertheless, in 2008 he donated $250 to the presidential campaign of New York’s former mayor, Rudolph Giuliani, a Republican.
“He was a friend of my father’s” Goldstein explained. “There are good things and bad things you can say about him, but I think he did a great job running New York.”
Although he believes Romney “has to appeal to his right wing base, which I am not a big fan of,” Goldstein expects Romney will govern from the political center.
“The social issues are extraordinarily important to me and my family. I believe in gay marriage. I have gay friends. But I will accept having a Romney administration to save Jewish lives.”
The RJC plans to concentrate its “Buyer’s Remorse” campaign in Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. Although polls suggest Jewish voters still favor Obama over Romney by nearly three to one, Republicans and Democrats know that even a small shift among Jewish voters can be crucial in those swing states.
“These folks, in telling their own stories, give voice to the nagging doubts that many in the Jewish community feel about Obama,” RJC executive director Matt Brooks said in a statement.
The National Jewish Democratic Council, meanwhile, has created a “Who did what on Israel?” quiz that is being widely shared on Facebook. It portrays Obama as a closer friend of Israel than previous Republican presidents, including Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush.
Despite his disappointment with Obama, Goldstein still has good things to say about him.
“In my heart I think Obama is a wonderful guy. I really do,” he said. “The way he speaks and the way he interacts with crowds. He has a charm. But look in his eyes, look in his soul, look in his heart. He is going to do something that is going to put Israel in jeopardy because it is not part of his beliefs to support Israel.”