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The Jewish Bloc

Roger L. Simon points me to this New York Sun story: Democratic Party’s Lock on Jewish Voters Is Loosened.

As it should be; the Democrat party has been among Israel’s weakest supporters in this country.

The link is subscriber only; I have reprinted the full text in the extended.

***
The New York Sun
December 9, 2004 Thursday

By RODERICK BOYD, Staff Reporter of the Sun

Although the Kerry-Edwards ticket won support from more than three in four Jewish voters in last month’s presidential election, the Democratic Party’s historical lock on the nation’s 4 million Jewish voters has loosened. Moreover, those analysts said the 24% support President Bush received from Jewish voters probably stemmed not only from his aggressive support for Israel but also from a broad political shift within the American Jewish community.

The voting patterns of several heavily Jewish neighborhoods in New York offer a case in point.

The 45th Assembly district, comprising Flatbush and Brighton Beach in Brooklyn, cast 16,120 votes for Mr. Bush and 12,633 for Senator Kerry, according to the city’s Board of Elections. In 2000, then-Governor Bush got just 8,615 votes out of more than 30,000.

The 48th Assembly district, comprising heavily Orthodox Boro Park, cast 18,036 votes for Mr. Bush versus 7,847 for Senator Kerry. In 2000, Vice President Gore took the district, 15,616 to 10,001.

Brooklyn was not the only area where the incumbent made inroads among Jewish voters. A senior Democratic strategist, based at Los Angeles who spoke to The New York Sun on condition of anonymity, said his research into the electoral precincts of Beverly Hills, with a Jewish population of nearly 40%, indicated that Mr. Bush got 42% of the vote, up from 20% in 2000. At the adjoining areas of Beverlywood and Pico/Robertson, which also have substantial Jewish populations and are considered liberal strongholds, Mr. Bush’s backing likewise roughly doubled, to nearly one-third. In the San Fernando Valley, the community of Encino, where approximately 26% of registered voters are Jewish, gave 38% of the vote to Mr. Bush, after giving him just 26% in 2000.

The strategist said the sense he got from conversations with Democratic organizers in those communities was that “a lot of Jews were very concerned about pulling out of Iraq,” which he said played to Mr. Bush’s image of resolve and determination. “A lot of Jews, especially the large population of Iranian Jews in Beverly Hills, are sensitive to threats of Islamic fundamentalist terror,” the strategist said.

To one Hollywood-based former liberal, the novelist and screenwriter Roger L. Simon, the data confirm something he had heard alluded to at various Hollywood functions. “There were whispers that more people than you re 476 419 574 430alized thought President Bush, despite all his other weaknesses, was on the right track with the war on terror,” Mr. Simon said. “But you didn’t hear it said in public, that’s for damn sure.” His own public support for the president has cost him “more than a few” long-term friendships, Mr. Simon said. His blog,RogerLSimon.com, initially carried the news of the sharp increase in support for Mr. Bush in Beverly Hills.

The reason for this electoral about-face among some American Jews is the credibility of the Bush Doctrine as a way of preserving national security, according to the executive director of the National Republican Jewish Coalition, Matt Brooks. He said New York’s Jewish community, with its close ties to Israel and its proximity to Ground Zero in Lower Manhattan, has “an unusually clear sense of what America is up against.”

Mr. Brooks predicted that the 2008 and 2012 elections will see Jewish voters return to the 30%-40% range of support for Republican presidential candidates that President Reagan received in 1984, with 39%, and Vice President Bush received in 1988, with 35%.

Should the former presidential candidate Howard Dean be elected chairman of the Democratic National Committee, however, Mr. Brooks predicted the backlash by centrist Jewish Democrats could tip the scales in the Republicans’ favor. Mr. Brooks said Dr. Dean’s “hard left” take on national-security issues and history of controversial statements about Israel would hurt the party’s outreach and fund-raising efforts.

Those assessments are not necessarily shared in Democratic circles.

For example, the deputy executive director of the National Jewish Democratic Council, David Harris, said Mr. Bush got more Jewish votes because he got more votes from almost every ethnic group. “More Americans voted for the man this time, and Jews were simply a part of that, no less or no more than in other groups,” he said.

Mr. Harris said the Republican Party’s talk of competing equally for the Jewish vote is at least premature. “They have a lot of work to do to simply get back to the vote levels they had in the 1970s and 1980s,” he said. Mr. Harris said it is unrealistic to assume that Democrats will continue to get more than 80% of the Jewish vote, as they did in the 1992, 1996, and 2000 presidential elections. On average, since 1972, Mr. Harris said, 27% of Jews have voted Republican. He said, however, that for the Republicans to crack 30% again, “There would have to be a really, really sharp difference in tone and style.”

“Tone and style” are code words for “Christian fundamentalism,” a Democratic strategist in New York, Hank Sheinkopf, said. While Mr. Bush’s high profile discussions of his evangelical faith worry many Jews, he said, the number of voters alienated by the practice is probably dropping as the percentage of Jews fully assimilated into American culture rises.

Mr. Sheinkopf, who is president of Sheinkopf Communications and a veteran of dozens of New York and national elections, said that absent a strong centrist leader such as President Clinton, the modern Democratic Party offers many Jewish voters less than ever before.

“The left is dead to the Jews, if not in direct opposition to Israel,” he said. “Liberalism as a domestic agenda is nearly dead. A non-threatening Republican can make gradual inroads with Jewish voters for the foreseeable future.”

The best opportunities for Republicans to pick up votes within the Jewish community, according to a project director for the Republican pollster Luntz Research Company, Ben Clarke, are with men between the ages of 18 and 49, and with religious Jews. Mr. Clarke said that in a survey of 484 Jewish voters taken by his company on Election Day, 39% of the men said they voted for Mr. Bush. He said this was nearly twice as high as the levels of women voting for the GOP ticket. In addition, according to Mr. Clarke, 40% of the Jews who said they attend synagogue once a week voted for Mr. Bush, and 69% of the voters who identified themselves as Orthodox chose Mr. Bush.

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