PHILADELPHIA — As the final day of the Democratic National Convention was set to wind down, sending energized delegates back to their home states for a 15-week campaign marathon, Jewish delegates on Thursday were told to recruit friends — and their children — to vote for former secretary of state Hillary Clinton.
A round table of prominent Jewish Democrats addressed delegates on Thursday, while the National Jewish Democratic Council launched a super PAC to boost support for Clinton among key Jewish voters in eight battleground states.
This second Jewish round table at the Philadelphia nominating convention drew some of the best-known Jewish legislators in recent party history. Former congressman Barney Frank was joined by current Senator Barbara Boxer, former congressman Robert Wexler, Congresswoman Jan Schakowski and others in doubling down on two key talking points — that the Democratic Party’s values reflect Jewish values, and that Jewish Democrats must work hard to get out the vote in November.
Democratic leaders expressed hope this week that the Jewish vote – which usually supports Democratic presidential candidates by some 70 percent to 30 percent — could reach 90 percent in this cycle. If Jews show up to vote — and vote Democratic — in these numbers, they could tip the balance in key states like Pennsylvania and Florida.
Former Vermont governor and one-time progressive candidate for the presidency Howard Dean warned the audience that the race was tighter than anticipated in the Midwest, but exhorted attendees to “Get out the vote because we need Florida in order to win.”
“In the collar counties of Philadelphia, that’s where Pennsylvania will live or die” for Democrats, Dean continued, calling on attendees to encourage their children — who he suggested had supported fellow Vermonter Bernie Sanders — to go to the polls in November and vote for Clinton.
“Its your job to get them to the polls,” he said, referencing a 2008 election video, “The Great Schlep,” in which comedian and former Sanders-turned-Clinton supporter Sarah Silverman called on Jewish millennials to go to Florida and encourage their grandparents to vote for Barack Obama.
“Now you have to do that for them,” he urged the convention attendees. “You have to tell your grandchildren, ‘Okay, you made us vote for Obama, now you have to go out to vote for Hillary Clinton.”
The National Jewish Democratic Council doubled down on recruiting Jews in battleground states like Colorado, Ohio, Florida and Pennsylvania, where large Jewish turnouts could sway close elections and pay huge dividends in the winner-takes-all electoral vote contest.
Put together, these four states pay huge electoral dividends — 76 votes — over a quarter of the 270 electoral college votes needed to win the presidency.
On Thursday, the NJDC officially launched Jews for Progress, a super PAC founded to boost support for Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine among Jews in swing states, which officials say will run “a highly targeted campaign in key battleground states, where a shift in the Jewish vote could turn the tide in the presidential election.”
Jews for Progress’ founders include former Florida congressman Rob Klein, past NJDC chair Michael Adler, former Democratic National Committee finance director and AIPAC worker Fran Katz Watson, Democratic fundraiser Steve Paikowsky, and DC insiders Steve Rabinowitz and Aaron Keyak of Bluelight Strategies, who will run the PAC’s day-to-day operations.
In 2012, Rabinowitz and Keyak ran “The Hub,” a communications hotspot that delivered fast responses to breaking issues concerning then-candidate Barack Obama and Israel or Jews. “The Hub” placed op-eds, created a website tying Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney to investments in Iran, launched a Jewish Voter Test site and delivered messaging to what Keyak and Rabinowitz say was hundred of thousands of Jewish voters.
Two years ago, Katz Watson and Rabinowitz founded Jewish Americans Ready for Hillary, an outreach group connected to the Ready for Hillary PAC, which prepared the ground for the Democratic nominee’s primary contest.
“It is crucial that we elect Hillary Clinton as president. Jews for Progress will make a concerted effort to get out the Jewish vote for Hillary, particularly in the key battleground states of Florida and Ohio, where the Jewish vote could tip the scales,” said Klein.
Unlike “The Hub,” which Jews for Progress says serves as a model for the new PAC’s activities, Jews for Progress seeks to raise and deploy a multi-million dollar war chest, focusing on direct voter contact targeting Jewish Americans, primarily in eight swing states — Ohio, Pennsylvania, Nevada, Colorado, Arizona, Florida, Virginia and Michigan.
While the 2012 organization worked with a budget of around $500,000, Jews for Progress says it already has commitments in excess of $1 million.