US elections

Obama wins big among Jews, with 69%-30% victory over Romney

Despite millions of dollars spent and unprecedented grass-roots work by Republican Jewish groups, exit polls of Jewish voters show only slight decline in support for Democrats

Haviv Rettig Gur is The Times of Israel's senior analyst.

David Harris, the president of the National Jewish Democratic Council, speaking to a British journalist outside the NJDC bus in Charlotte N.C., Sept. 3 (photo credit: Ron Kampeas/JTA)
David Harris, the president of the National Jewish Democratic Council, speaking to a British journalist outside the NJDC bus in Charlotte N.C., Sept. 3 (photo credit: Ron Kampeas/JTA)

The Jewish vote remained solidly in the Democratic camp, according to early exit polls from Tuesday’s US election.

According to polls cited by both CNN and CBS News, Jews represented two percent of the national electorate and supported Obama 69% to 30%, with 1% going to a third candidate.

In the key swing state of Florida, exit polls showed the Jews as 5% of the electorate and breaking for Obama 66%-30%, with 4% going to a third candidate.

Jewish Democratic activists were quick to celebrate Tuesday night.

“We now know that the Jewish community today was once again solidly behind President Barack Obama, and that the only so-called ‘Jewish problem’ he has is that there aren’t more Jewish voters in America, given the overwhelming support for the President in our community,” National Jewish Democratic Council head David A. Harris said.

Comparing the results with a study that pegged 2008’s Jewish vote at 74% for Obama, the NJDC noted that “statistically there is no difference between tonight’s results and the Jewish vote share for the President in 2008,” since the 5-point gap was within the margin of error.

The NJDC’s Republican counterpart, the Republican Jewish Coalition, which had spent millions of dollars on billboards, television ads and canvassing in the Jewish community and claimed Jews would abandon Obama in this election, remained mum Tuesday night. The group did not respond to emails seeking comment.

But not so Democrats, who reveled in the apparent Republican failure to gain a substantially greater share of the Jewish vote.

“The powerful support given to the President today by American Jews shows that the more than $15 million campaign undertaken by Republicans to woo Jewish voters with negative advertising, scare tactics, and outright lies simply did not work,” said Harris.

In an NJDC press release, the group even named names of Republicans who had claimed Jewish support for Obama was weakening.

“Tonight’s results run counter to the false claims made about the President’s strong Jewish support — claims made by Republican leaders like House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA), former Senator and GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum, Ari Fleischer, former GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain, Emergency Committee for Israel Board member and former GOP presidential candidate Gary Bauer, and leaders of the Republican Jewish Coalition, among many, many others,” the release read.

The nonpolitical Jewish organized world responded quickly on Tuesday night and throughout the early morning hours of Wednesday, with a seemingly universal message calling on post-election Washington to get back to work.

William Daroff, the influential former Republican operative now working as the vice president for public policy of the Jewish Federations of North America, the Jewish philanthropic world’s nonpartisan Washington lobbyist, hopes Washington can get back to business.

“The remarkable thing is that after spending hundreds of millions of dollars, it is likely that Washington will look exactly the same,” with Obama still in the White House, Democrats still controlling the Senate and Republicans holding on to the House, Daroff said.

And that has its advantages, according to Daroff.

“The advantage will be that tomorrow all the players know where they stand, and we’ll be able to shift away from the election era that has paralyzed governing for the last many months and deal with the fiscal cliff,” he said.

The 1,700-member Conservative Rabbinical Assembly said early Wednesday that its rabbis “congratulate President Obama on winning a second term,” and called for bipartisanship in Washington.

“Just as we come together to build consensus as an organization representing all political streams and points of view, our government must work together, across both sides of the aisle and the political spectrum, to improve the economy and opportunities for all Americans,” a Rabbinical Assembly statement said.

Hadassah National President Marcie Natan extended “sincere congratulations” to Obama for his victory, and said “Hadassah is eager to continue working with President Obama… as well as with Congress.”

Closely watched races with Jewish candidates showed mixed results for members of the tribe.

Josh Mandel, the 35-year-old Republican Ohio state treasurer, lost his Senate bid to incumbent Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown. An Iraq vet, Mandel has pushed divestment from Iran as an Ohio state representative. He is considered a rising star among Jewish Republicans.

Brown defeated Mandel 50%-45%.

For its part, NJDC welcomed Brown’s victory over his Jewish opponent, saying Brown “has been a staunch defender of America’s middle class and a true ally of the Jewish community on a variety of domestic issues, and when it comes to ensuring a strong and secure Israel as well.”

Jewish Democrat Alan Grayson had a better night. The Harvard-trained attorney and businessman from Florida, who campaigned against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan but has voted with Republicans on fiscal restraint measures, won Florida’s 9th Congressional District House seat 62% to 38%, defeating Republican Todd Long.

Grayson is a multi-millionaire who made his fortune in his law practice and in the telecommunications industry. This victory ushers in Grayson’s second nonconsecutive term in the House. He served in 2008-10 as a representative from Florida’s 8th Congressional District.

Two Jewish candidates, both veteran politicians, competed for Florida’s 22nd Congressional District, with Democratic former mayor of West Palm Beach Lois Frankel defeating Republican former state legislator Adam Hasner 55%-45%. The district, which includes the cities of West Palm Beach and Boca Raton and is currently (before the post-2010 redistricting) represented in the House by Allen West, is heavily Jewish.

In Hawaii, former governor and Jewish Republican Linda Lingle has likely lost her bid for the Senate to Democrat Mazie Hirono by a large margin of 36% to 64%.

California’s closely watched race between two strongly pro-Israel Jewish Democrats, locked in a bitter contest due to redistricting, looked in early returns to be tilting away from longtime Foreign Affairs Committee ranking member Howard Berman and toward relatively new (only 16 years in Congress to Berman’s 30) Congressman Brad Sherman.

The only rabbi running for Congress, Republican candidate (and Times of Israel contributor) Shmuley Boteach in New Jersey’s 9th Congressional District, suffered a decisive defeat to Democrat Bill Pascrell. While the district has not sent a Republican to Congress in 30 years, Boteach had said polls showed a shift in his favor a few weeks before the election.

Meanwhile, two members of Congress who held far-right positions when it came to Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, openly opposing the establishment of a Palestinian state, will likely not be coming back to Congress.

Illinois Congressman Joe Walsh, a Republican Tea Party favorite who has written publicly against Palestinian statehood in the West Bank, lost decisively in Illinois’s 8th Congressional District in suburban Chicago to Democrat Tammy Duckworth by a vote of 45%-55%.

Florida Congressman Allen West is currently locked in a tight photo-finish race with Democrat Patrick Murphy for Florida’s 18th Congressional District, but appears to be losing by a few thousand votes. West is seen as a rising star on right end of the Republican Party, and has said the Palestinians are not a distinct people and do not want peace.

The only member of Congress still subscribing to that view will likely be Republican Michael Grimm, the co-chair of the House Republican Israel Caucus and a representative from New York’s 11th Congressional District, which includes the flood-hit area of Staten Island.

Grimm, a former Marine and FBI agent, was reelected by a large margin Tuesday night. He has said he opposes the creation of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and has called for the release of Jonathan Pollard.

All three are not Jewish.

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