The undisputed winners in politics last week were Jewish voters. We have seen both candidates and campaigns go through great effort to establish themselves as the best option for Jewish voters. Democrats and Republicans are jockeying over who is a better and stronger ally of Israel. High level Jewish surrogates have inundated the airwaves to duke it out.
During his trip abroad we saw Mitt Romney deliver a speech outlining his position on Israel. He did it in Jerusalem with a picture-perfect backdrop of the Old City behind him. Though he technically stuck to his promise of not criticizing the President on foreign soil, the veiled jabs were hard to miss. He basically told Israelis, that (unlike that other guy), he would not disagree or criticize Israel in public. He also delivered a stern warning to Iran – If you mess with Israel, you do so at your peril.
Romney took time off from a hectic campaign schedule and schlepped half-way across the world to deliver that speech. The battle over the heart and soul of Israel translates to votes and money in the United States. Many of Obama’s top donors and bundlers are Jewish. The same is true for Romney. Some donors were at the speech. Casino mogul, Sheldon Adelson was front and center. Once, he was Newt Gingrich’s sugar daddy, but he is now firmly in the Romney camp, donating millions to his Super PAC and campaign accounts.
Then there are the votes. In 2008, the Jewish vote helped Barack Obama reach the White House. There is no state were the Jewish vote is more important than Florida, the Mac Daddy of swing states, with 29 electoral votes up for grab. In the last presidential election, there were an estimated 335,000 Jewish voters in Florida. 75% of them voted for Obama. This contributed to Obama’s margin of victory and ultimately clinching the presidency.
Practically all polls today indicate that Romney and Obama are in a dead heat in Florida. Romney needs to chip away at the different voting groups that helped Obama win. Obama needs to hang on to every single one. That’s why a brief detour to Israel makes all the sense in the world.