[update below] [2nd update below]
As the now old saying has it. A Gallup poll just out has Obama beating Romney 68% to 25% among Jewish voters. The folks at The Weekly Standard and Commentary—who have been diligently portraying Obama as hostile to Israel—must be throwing up their arms in dismay. In the 1984 election pro-Reagan neoconservatives promised to deliver the Jewish vote to the GOP but it didn’t happen. Nor did it in 2004, despite Bush’s indefatigable support of Israel during the second Intifida. And it doesn’t look like it will finally happen this time, and despite Obama’s chilly relationship with Bibi Netanyahu. What is interesting about Jewish voters is how they have become more Democratic over the past two decades, and during which time the Republican party has adopted a virulent pro-Israel rhetoric. From 1968 through 1988, Jews voted two-to-one for the Democratic presidential candidate (except in 1980, when Jimmy Carter got around half the Jewish vote, but with the shortfall going to John Anderson, not Reagan). Republican candidates could count on a third of Jewish voters, even though the GOP did not go out of its way to cultivate them. But from the 1992 election onward Jews have voted for the Dem candidate on the order of 75-80% and despite Republicans falling over themselves in professing eternal love for Israel (not that Democrats haven’t done likewise or that Jewish voters are primarily driven by this issue). I have not investigated in depth the reasons as to why this has happened, as they seem sort of obvious. The drop in the Jewish vote for the GOP correlates almost precisely with the increasing dominance of evangelicals in the party, and on the American right more generally. Political extremism aside, American Jews in their majority—who are urban, educated, and live in deep blue states—do not relate to this segment of American society (and that lives in what really is “flyover country” for most Jews). The cultural chasm is wide. And end time Christian Zionists in Texas and elsewhere down that way are not going to narrow it. So William Kristol, Charles Krauthammer & Co. will just have to continue pulling their hair out after this election.
But even if Jews did shift in significant numbers to the GOP it wouldn’t have an effect on the election—expect maybe in Florida—, as the states where they are concentrated will still vote Obama.
UPDATE: Steve Kornacki at Salon has a piece on Romney’s play for Jewish voters, though says that his Israel trip and hard-line pro-Israel position is also aimed at evangelicals. But Walter Russell Mead, in his blog at The American Interest, argues that evangelicals are the main audience for Romney’s rhetoric on Israel, that “In American politics, taking a strong pro-Israel stand is a way of communicating your commitment to American exceptionalism and to American global leadership.”
2nd UPDATE: Peter Beinhart has a piece in The Daily Beast on how “Romney lost the American Jewish vote by picking Paul Ryan,” in which he makes some of the same arguments as I do above. He cites a study released July 10th by The Solomon Project—that I hadn’t seen—entitled “Jewish-American Voting Behavior 1972-2008: Just the Facts.” (August 14)