Republicans hope to make history with Jewish voters

By Nathan Guttman, September 3, 2008
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Hoping to make history with Jewish voters, Republicans used their political convention to make the case to the community for supporting John McCain come the November elections.

The Republican Jewish Coalition organised a variety of events focused at getting Jewish supporters and donors in touch with senior Republican officials and broadening the party's outreach to the Jewish community.

"Once Jewish Republicans could hold their meetings in a phone booth, now we are filling halls," said Dennis Prager, a Jewish radio pundit who supports the Republican candidate.

Republicans have said they expect record Jewish support, aiming at over 30 per cent of Jewish voters, compared to less than 25 per cent in the past. So far, Democrat Barack Obama has been polling relatively low among Jewish voters, with only 62 per cent saying they will vote for him. Democrats dispute these numbers, arguing that they reflect the normal rate of support at this stage.

On domestic issues, Republicans have always been at odds with the mainstream Jewish community, which is supports abortion rights, gay rights and a strong separation of church and state. This year's Republican ticket is a mixed bag on these issues: while John McCain is relatively moderate, his vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin is a hard-line conservative.

Republican organisers emphasised foreign affairs issues in which they believe they have an advantage with the Jewish community and presented a tough approach toward Iran. In the run-up to the convention, the McCain campaign put out a TV ad accusing Mr Obama of ignoring the Iranian threat and refusing to recognise its danger to Israel. Obama's campaign said in response that the quotes used in the Republican ad were taken out of context.

At the convention, held in the twin cities of Saint Paul-Minnesota, the campaign highlighted two of their chief Jewish supporters, Senator Norm Coleman of Minnesota who is in the midst of a re-election campaign, and Democrat-turned-Independent Joe Lieberman.

Another Jewish Republican given special attention at the convention was Linda Lingle, governor of Hawaii who spoke to Jewish Republicans throughout the four-day event.

    Last updated: 3:02pm, September 3 2008