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MidEast a hot topic in US elections

    Among the 10 states that went to the polls on "Super Tuesday", three have a significant number of Jewish voters and Mitt Romney, the Republican front-runner, scooped them all.

    The three states - Massachusetts, Virginia and Ohio - are all likely to be key battlegrounds in the 2012 presidential election. In Ohio, there is evidence that Jews could have been instrumental in deciding the outcome of the vote: there is a Jewish population of around 150,000, and Jewish issues and the Middle East played key roles in the campaigns that were run in the swing state.

    Ohio Republicans selected a Jewish former Marine, Josh Mandel, as their candidate for the US Senate. The 34-year-old state treasurer, who is the grandson of a Holocaust survivor, will take on the Democrats' Sherrod Brown.

    Middle East issues were on the agenda for Democrat voters too. Ohio Democratic representative and former presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich, a critic of Israel, lost a Democratic primary. Seen as one of the most colourful figures in Congress, he was defeated by Marcy Kaptur. During Operation Cast Lead, he accused Israel of "blocking aid for wounded Palestinians" and said that "US tax dollars provided to Israel are enabling the slaughter in Gaza". He said the country did not abide by "standards of basic human decency".

    Earlier this week, the Republican candidates addressed the Aipac policy conference in Washington DC. Mr Santorum was there in person; Mr Romney and Newt Gringich appeared via satellite.

    All criticised President Barack Obama for not making a more determined military threat against a potential nuclear Iran. The fourth candidate, Ron Paul, was not invited, due to his anti-Israel stance.

    Nevertheless, according to David A Harris, president of the National Jewish Democratic Council, the Republican candidates have "demonstrated repeatedly that there is a wide chasm separating them from the majority of American Jews".

    As evidence, he cited Mr Romney's self-description as "severely conservative", as well as Mr Santorum's and Mr Gingrich's anti-choice agendas and their opposition to the separation of church and state.

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