In the summer of 2008, presidential candidate Barack Obama flew to Israel for a couple of days as he tried to convince Jewish Americans that Reverend Jeremiah Wright notwithstanding, he was and would be a strong and sensitive friend of the State of Israel when he occupied the White House. While some in the Jewish community and in Israel today second guess his commitment to Israel’s best interests—especially with how to respond to the Iranian nuclear threat—the President is still likely to carry at least 65-70% of the Jewish vote in November. He will be down from the 78 % he won in 2008, but it will be unlikely to make a difference.
For Mitt Romney, his announced forthcoming trip to Israel after attending part of the beginning of the London Olympic Games in late July, indicates that his staff believes that he can win even more than 30-35% of the Jewish vote in on Election Day. The problem is not with Romney’s totally appropriate decision to go to Israel, but rather with what he hopes to gain from it.
The Electoral College configuration is such that only a few states with significant Jewish voters are viewed as toss-up states; Florida (3.4% of 18.8 million), Ohio (1.3% of 11.5 million), Colorado (1.8% of 5.0 million), Michigan (.8% of 9.8 million), and Pennsylvania (2.3% of 12.7 million). In these states, Romney’s ability to influence enough Jewish voters to make an impact would only occur if any or all of these states have victory margins of less than .5% of the total vote. Changing enough votes to make a difference will require a huge shift in the pattern of Jewish voting.
There was a time that Jewish campaign contributions would have been significant enough reason for a candidate to consider this trip, but today after Citizens United only the Sheldon Adelsons in the Jewish community can make a difference, and he is being clearly out-matched by the Koch brothers and others.
Perhaps what is significant in the Romney camp’s calculations is that fact that he will not be able to make genuine inroads among Hispanic or female voters, so he needs every potential vote he can garner. In fact, some are suggesting that Obama is likely to do even better now with Latinos than had been previously suggested. (Obama won 67% of Hispanic votes and 95% of African American votes.) What is important among the Hispanic voters, in Florida for example, is that they are far larger and more likely to swing a state than the Jewish vote. Hispanics constitute 22.5% of Florida’s population, 20.7 in Colorado, 4.4% in Michigan and 5.7% in Pennsylvania.