McCain backers woo Jewish vote

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Partisan groups are investing vast resources to sway Jewish voters in the presidential election as Republicans try to win a bloc that traditionally leans toward Democrats.

Polls show that the Democratic candidate, Sen. Barack Obama, has the support of 60 percent to 65 percent of Jewish voters, still strong despite political attacks, a tough campaign linking him to anti-Israel groups and e-mail rumors questioning his faith.

The Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) is running an ad in Jewish newspapers calling Mr. Obama’s position on Iran “naive and dangerous.” The ad uses images of Ayatollah Ruholla Khomeini, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and demonstrators burning an Israeli flag.

“Concerned about Barack Obama? You should be. History has shown that a naive and weak foreign policy has resulted in tragic outcomes for the Jewish people.”

Directly under that text is a photo of the candidate in front of a huge crowd with the location identified: “Barack Obama speaking in Germany, 7/24/08.”

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a Florida Democrat, called the ad “disgusting” and said the Republicans were trying to link Mr. Obama to the Holocaust and the Nazi Party.

“It’s clearly an effort to sow seeds of doubt,” she said. “Voters in the Jewish community are a lot smarter than that.”

Matt Brooks, RJC’s executive director, called Mrs. Schultz’s conclusion “a monumental stretch” and insisted that the group chose the photo of the senator’s European trip instead of one from the candidate’s hundreds of rallies in the U.S. because it “couldn’t find a good picture.”

The caption was necessary because “it’s important for people to know where we got the image,” he said.

“Right now Barack Obama has a real problem among Jewish voters, which obviously McCain is working hard to try and exploit,” Mr. Brooks said.

Jewish voters backed Vice President Al Gore by 80 percent in the 2000 presidential election and Sen. John Kerry by 75 percent in 2004.

Ira Forman, executive director of the National Jewish Democratic Council (NJDC), said his group isn’t moved by scare tactics.

“The only question is does Obama win the Jewish vote 2-to-1 or 3-to-1 as Democrats tended to do in the 1990s,” Mr. Forman said.

The NJDC suggested in a recent fundraising appeal that Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin has “zero foreign policy experience” and is “totally out of step with public opinion in the Jewish community” on domestic issues such as reproductive rights.

“The Jewish community deserves to know the facts,” NJDC writes in a fact sheet for voters that targets Mrs. Palin’s conflicting statements on the so-called “Bridge to Nowhere” and says the Republican vice-presidential candidate wants public schools to teach creationism.

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About the Author

Christina Bellantoni

Christina Bellantoni is a White House correspondent for The Washington Times in Washington, D.C., a post she took after covering the 2008 Democratic presidential campaigns. She has been with The Times since 2003, covering state and Congressional politics before moving to national political beat for the 2008 campaign. Bellantoni, a San Jose native, graduated from UC Berkeley with ...

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