American Jews can usually be counted on to line up squarely behind the Democratic presidential candidate, but Jewish voters this year are expressing misgivings about likely nominee Barack Obama.
And the Jewish vote could prove crucial in November in swing states like Ohio and especially Florida, where Democrat Al Gore lost the presidency by a few hundred votes in 2000.
A longtime Democratic constituency with a high turnout rate, Jews are important to Obama’s “general election hopes, particularly in New York, which he expects to win; in California and New Jersey, which he must keep out of Republican hands; and most crucially, in Florida, where Jews make up around 5 percent of voters,” the New York Times observed.
But Shirley Weitz, one of many South Florida Jews interviewed by the Times’ Jodi Kantor, said: “The people here, liberal people, will not vote for Obama because of his attitude towards Israel.
“They’re going to vote for McCain.”
Many of the Florida Jews who spoke with Kantor questioned Obama’s commitment to Israel. Some suspect him of being too cozy with the Palestinians, and others accuse him of having ties to Muslims because his father was born Muslim and as a boy he lived for a time in Indonesia, a Muslim country.
Several people told the Times that they were worried about Obama’s stated willingness to speak without conditions with Iran’s leadership, given that nation’s nuclear ambitions and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s threat to “wipe Israel off the map.”
Other voters were critical of Obama’s endorsement by Rev. Jesse Jackson, because Jackson once called New York “Hymietown” and has made other comments offensive to Jews, the Times reported.
Obama could lose Jewish votes to McCain due to Sen. Joe Lieberman’s strong backing of the presumptive GOP candidate.
Lieberman “is expected to spend plenty of time in front of Jewish audiences, in Florida and elsewhere,” Kantor noted.
“A Democrat turned independent, an Orthodox Jew and one of Mr. McCain’s closest friends, Mr. Lieberman will promote Mr. McCain’s strong national security resume and centrist stances.”
Another longtime Jewish Democrat, former New York City Mayor Ed Koch, said he might also support McCain over Obama.
He told Newsmax in an exclusive interview that McCain “has no equal” when it comes to opposing Islamic terrorism, and said he is bothered by Obama’s relationships with Rev. Jeremiah Wright and terrorist bomber William Ayers.
Aides said Obama plans to spend a considerable amount of time in the next few months campaigning in Florida, which could once again decide a close race in November.
Boca Raton, Fla., Rabbi Ruvi New, referring to a nearby heavily Jewish retirement community, told the Times: “The fate of the world for the next four years — it’s all going to boil down to a few old Jews in Century Village.”
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