Muslim voters, an electoral ally of President Bush as recently as 2000, played a key role in turning over control of the Senate to Democrats, a study shows.
“Although the-get-out-the-vote campaign was nonpartisan, there is no doubt that our strategy to support a large Muslim voter turnout in areas with potentially close election races was a correct one,” said Mahdi Bray, director of the Muslim American Society (MAS) Freedom Foundation. “We looked at the states with close races and matched them up with states that had a large concentration of Muslims.”
MAS also targeted races in Florida, Georgia, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio and Pennsylvania.
In the U.S. Senate race in Virginia, more than 50,000 self-identified Muslim voters went to the polls, MAS said. A commanding majority of them, 92 percent, or 47,092, voted for the Democratic challenger, James H. Webb Jr. Mr. Webb won his race against Sen. George Allen, the Republican incumbent, by 9,326 votes.
“If Muslims had decided to put their weight behind Allen, Republicans would have had at least a tie in the Senate,” said Mukit Hossain of MAS, which conducted the survey.
Muslim turnout of registered voters was exceptionally high in Virginia, at 86 percent, MAS reported. About 13 percent, or 7,822, of them were first-time voters.
Muslims also celebrated the victory of Keith Ellison, the first Muslim elected to Congress. The Democrat won his race with 56 percent of the vote in Minnesota’s traditionally liberal 5th District. Mr. Ellison, who describes himself as a moderate Muslim, won the backing of the National Jewish Democratic Council, even though his opponent, Republican Alan Fine, was Jewish.
Muslim voters have not always turned against Republican candidates. A survey by the Center for American Islamic Relations found that 78 percent of Muslims supported Mr. Bush during his first presidential election in 2000.
CAIR found that Muslims were drawn to Mr. Bush’s conservative stances on social issues and their hope that he would overturn provisions of a 1996 law, backed by the Clinton administration, that allowed for “secret evidence” in the deportation of immigrants with suspected terrorist ties.
Some estimates show that 60,000 Muslims voted for Mr. Bush in Florida. Those numbers nearly flipped in 2004, with most surveys showing Mr. Bush receiving about 7 percent of Muslim support against his opponent, Sen. John Kerry, Massachusetts Democrat.
Mr. Hossain is president of the Virginia Muslim Political Action Committee, a group that endorsed Mr. Webb’s candidacy. However, Mr. Hossain says neither the Virginia PAC nor MAS has a partisan affiliation. He said the PAC endorsed Mr. Webb and other Democratic candidates because of their positions on civil liberties, immigration and health care.
Mr. Hossain did not hide his personal preference for Mr. Webb and his enthusiasm for Democratic victories a week ago, appearing at a press conference yesterday wearing a Webb campaign button on his jacket.