'Santorum won't get kosher vote'

By Nathalie Rothschild, February 23, 2012
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Rick Santorum is surging in the ever-more dramatic Republican race for the presidential nomination. But will he be able to overcome his "Jewish problem"?

Mr Santorum, a former Pennsylvania senator, is widely regarded as the most right-wing of the four remaining GOP candidates, and the most socially conservative. His uncompromising stances on issues such as abortion and birth control are at odds with the outlook of most American Jews.

According to David Harris, president of the National Jewish Democratic Council, Mr Santorum has "no chance at all" of wining the Jewish vote. "It's not just that he opposes abortion rights," said Mr Harris, "but he has long prided himself on being the most far-right social issues candidate. He's not just anti-choice, he's also opposed to contraception availability and prenatal screenings - and he's anti-gay."

Mr Harris believes Mr Santorum is too extreme for most Republican Jews, too - and some of them seem to agree.

Fred Zeidman is a Houston lawyer and a leading fundraiser for Mr Santorum's biggest rival, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney. He acknowledged that the Democrats are seen as closer to the Jewish point of view on issues such as women's rights, and argued that Mr Romney has a better chance of attracting Jewish voters than any of the other Republican candidates because he is "softer" on social issues.

Mr Zeidman also insisted that all Republican candidates are Israel supporters and that "the safety and security of Israel" is an overriding concern for Jews. "In that respect, we're much better off in Republican hands."

For Mr Harris, however, the suggestions that "Jews have to choose between supporting Israel and other issues is a false choice. American Jews are not facing a choice between an anti-Israeli and pro-Israel candidate."

Mr Harris says he is "rooting for Santorum" because, like a majority of Democrats, he believes Mr Santorum would be an easy match for President Obama.

Mr Santorum has compared Obama's policies to the threats posed by Nazi Germany, and this week he made headlines for comments he made at a Catholic university in 2008 about Satan having his "sights on" America.

Last updated: 1:58pm, February 23 2012