The president, who received 78 percent of the Jewish vote in 2008, can still rebuild his support in the community. Among some influential Jews, it has already begun.
Case in point: former New York City Mayor Edward I. Koch, as loyal a supporter of Israel as they come. Koch urged voters in the recent special election in New York’s 9th Congressional District to fill the seat of the recently resigned Anthony Weiner, to back the Republican candidate and send a message to the president about his Israel policy.
The voters in the 9th, a heavily Jewish district in New York City, did just that, electing Bob Turner as its first GOP congressman since the 1920s.
But instead of leading the charge for yet more anti-Obama statements from Jewish voters, Koch is returning to the fold. He told his supporters in a Sept. 27 e-mailed message that he is on the “Obama Re-election Express” backing the president in the wake of his pro-Israel speech at the United Nations, among other factors.
“I believe the recent vote in the 9th Congressional District in New York affected in a positive way the policy of the U.S. on the Mideast,” Koch wrote, noting the international community’s endorsement last week of renewed talks without preconditions, a key Israeli demand. “The President should be praised for intervening with the Egyptian army to save the Israeli diplomatic personnel from physical assault and providing the Israeli military with bunker buster bombs, advanced military technology and providing military intelligence cooperation far exceeding his predecessors.”
Will Koch’s endorsement alone be enough to turn the president’s approval ratings among disenchanted Jews? Maybe not. As J.J. Goldberg of the Jewish Daily Forward recently noted, the number of Jewish voters identifying as Democrats has declined.
But they’re not necessarily jumping ship to the Republicans.
“Are American Jews finally moving into the Republican column? Not likely,” Goldberg wrote in a recent column. “Much of the disapproval seems related to the president’s failure to protect traditional liberal goals.”
In other words, if the president can find and amplify his voice on issues such as civil liberties, immigration reform, health care, green jobs and the economy — especially the economy — he could conceivably win back the Jewish support he’s lost
He seems to be doing just that, stating recently when he unveiled his $3 trillion deficit reduction plan, “I will not support any plan that puts all of the burden for closing our deficit on ordinary Americans, and I will veto any bill that changes benefits for those who rely on Medicare but does not raise serious revenues by asking the wealthiest Americans and the biggest corporations to pay their fair share. We are not going to have a one-sided deal that hurts the folks who are most vulnerable.”
This sounds more like candidate Obama from the 2008 election.
The next presidential election is a year off. Anything can happen, but as the Koch announcement shows, Jewish voters are still very much up for grabs.