Gingrich attacks Romney's kosher vote ahead of Florida primary

Newt Gingrich

Newt Gingrich

Newt Gingrich's team has found a new tactic with which to challenge Mitt Romney as the Republican frontrunners gear up for the first presidential primary in which a large number of Jewish voters have a say.

Florida, where Jews comprise about three per cent of the population, votes tomorrow on which contender to back. The winner-takes-all primary will see Mr Romney attempt to reclaim his lead in the race, after his defeat at the South Carolina primary.

Mr Gingrich has begun highlighting a vote made by Mr Romney in 2003 when, as Massachussetts governor, he refused to back extra funding for kosher meals in nursing homes.

Mr Romney voted against adding £380,000 to the state's budget to provide for Jewish residents, describing them as unnecessary and expressing concern that they would

lead to an "increased rate for nursing facilities".

Although the decision was later reversed with an amendment, it is now under scrutiny again. The New York Post quoted Brooklyn State Assemblyman Dov Hikind criticising Mr Romney's vote as "disappointing and quite shocking".

On Monday at a campaign event Mr Gingrich compared "Romneycare" and "Obamacare" and said: "He specifically refused to exempt Catholic hospitals, he specifically cut funding for kosher meals for Jewish senior elders in Medicaid in Massachusetts."

Although the majority of Jewish voters in Florida have historically supported the Democratic Party, at least a quarter are believed to be registered Republicans with a strong interest in Tuesday's primary.

Both Mr Gingrich and Mr Romney have positioned themselves as staunch supporters of Israel, while while one of Mr Gingrich’s biggest backers is Sheldon Adelson, a prominent Jewish philanthropist who has donated $10 million to a pro-Gingrich group.

Meanwhile, the small Orthodox Jewish population of Nevada – including Mr Adelson and his Israeli-born wife - will have the chance to vote in this Saturday's caucus, after organisers agreed to move the vote until after the end of Shabbat.

Last updated: 3:25pm, January 30 2012