Is Obama losing Jewish vote? New York says yes

By Matthew Brooks, September 8, 2011
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After scandal-scarred incumbent Anthony Weiner resigned from his seat, Democrats and many political sages confidently predicted that the district he represented - New York's 9th, a rock-solid Democratic district - would stay in the Democratic fold. They were convinced that David Weprin, a machine politician who did not live in the district, would bury Republican rival Bob Turner in the September 13 special election.

Now the contest appears to be very close: Politico quoted a local Democratic operative admitting that "this [race] is a crapshoot" and is almost certain to stay that way until election day. A recent poll underscored that by showing the race to be tied.

Some reports point to gaffes by a tongue-tied Weprin; others cite the economy and frustration with the Democrat President, for whom Weprin would certainly become a faithful footsoldier, as reasons why this race is so close.

Surging disapproval of Obama is clearly a factor. One poll analyst marvelled that with 55 per cent of NY - 9 voters disapproving of Obama (and 37 per cent strongly disapproving), the President may be an even bigger drag in a congressional race now than he was in November.

Especially unsettling for Jewish Democrats nationally is that, in this district, a big part of the "Obama drag" is disillusionment with the President among Jews - especially those concerned about Middle East peace and Israel's security.

During the 2008 campaign, team Obama worked hard to disseminate that message that Israel had nothing to fear from a President Obama.

And his campaign recruited a small army of surrogates to vouch for his commitment to the bipartisan pro-Israel consensus that has prevailed in Washington DC in recent decades.

Once elected, Obama's policies towards Israel took on a markedly more harsh tone - breaking his promises and betraying his surrogates.

Now, that betrayal has come back to haunt Obama in the form of former New York mayor Ed Koch, who is backing GOP candidate Turner. Koch is a proud Democrat, but he regrets having assured Jews in 2008 that Obama would be a stalwart ally of Israel.

Now, Koch is pleading with Jews and other supporters of Israel in the 9th District to send Obama a message that the stark divergence between his promise of solidarity with Israel and the reality of diplomatic "daylight" is neither overlooked nor excused.

Some Jewish Democrats insist nothing Obama does can dislodge his strong Jewish support. The battle for NY-9 suggests that their perceptions may not yet have caught up with reality.

Matthew Brooks is Executive Director of the Republican Jewish Coalition

Last updated: 12:28pm, September 8 2011