Time Magazine today reported their list of Five Lessons to be Learned from Super Tuesday. In a nutshell, they are:
1. Hillary Clinton still gets love from “white and Latino women and older people”, regardless of who endorses Obama;
2. Barack Obama has made “significant inroads among southern white men”, but his “efforts to sway” the Latino community “have so far failed”;
3. John McCain, while emerging as the GOP frontrunner, “has a lot of work to do among die-hard conservatives, who remain distrustful of him”;
4. Mitt Romney “failed to impress almost anyone”;
5. Mike Huckabee‘s next task, if he is to remain in the race, must “turn himself into something more than a regional favorite”.
With the Jewish vote, things are bit less complex. First of all, like the Jewish Week says, no analyst believes that McCain could carry a majority of the Jewish votes in November were he the Republican candidate — the best to be hoped for is that he returns the Jewish GOP-voting levels to where they were during the Reagan administration (about 39 percent). A Huckabee or Romney nomination would equal a “blowout” of the Republican party in a general election as far as Jews are concerned — and the American Jewish Committee called Huckabee a “prescription for theocracy”, his ideal of a “more Christian America” being more than a bit off-putting for many Jewish voters.
So with a little help from Ha’aretz, and with Romney and Huckabee being basically irrelevant as far as Jews are concerned, here are the three lessons I think the Jewish electorate learned from Super Tuesday:
1. Despite doing, in one author’s words, “everything, and I mean everything, in order to appease American Jews”, Barack Obama is going to have to work a lot harder to reverse the toll taken on his image by the various blasts against him in the Jewish community. Some of the attacks involved “racist language” because of his Muslim father and while it’s lamentable that this forces him to defend himself against things “such as nonexistent ties with elements hostile to Israel”, it’s an unfortunate PR dilemma he’s not sufficiently dealing with.
Without a “longstanding pro-Israel track record” to point to (on the level of say, a 25-year McCain streak), Obama’s going to have to make up for it with PR and outreach. To quote Rabbi Klein from the NY Board of Rabbis, Jews just don’t think Obama “gets the Jewish agenda and the issues of the State of Israel” — and he’s going to have to counteract this on Jewish communities’ turf. Much of his star-power just isn’t making so much of an effect on the ground with Jews, and for many Jews wary of his inexperience, the “change” mantra being brought up in so many endorsements could hinder his campaign instead of bolster it.
2. Hillary is either ignoring the kids, or speaking a different language. The younger crowds are skewing towards Obama in community after community, and this fact belies the Jewish poll results — the older Jews of Florida (in 1993, one community boasted 9 out of 10 citizens being seniors) turned out roundly for Hillary (74%) but the younger Northeast — in Massachusetts, for example, only 23% of Jews are over 60 — showed some Obama victories: a slight one in Massachusetts, a sounding one in Connecticut.
3. Israel really is John McCain‘s bread-and-butter falafel-and-hummus. No one even cares that John McCain said that “the Constitution established the United States of America as a Christian nation,” a statement that killed Huckabee’s chances. All that matters is his pro-Israel voting record, combined with Lieberman as his one-man heimish PR engine, and McCain is poised to cull Jewish votes at levels not seen in decades. The only way to counter this is going to be by, to quote the Jerusalem Post, “reminding voters that McCain has said we could be in Iraq for another hundred years”, and reminding Jewish voters that McCain’s brand of conservatism is not always square with Jewish values.
(Side note, no matter what, never, ever schedule a caucus on Shabbos.)