In the wake of the Dem loss in the heavily Jewish district of NY-9 — which has been widely trumpeted by Republicans as a sign that Obama will lose Jewish support — the Obama campaign is redoubling its efforts to prevent defections among this core Democratic constituency, suggesting they take this possibility seriously.
On a conference call with Jewish leaders around the country that I listened in on, two top operatives for Obama’s campaign repeatedly and insistently told listeners that holding Jewish support would depend in part on their willingness to act as surrogates and aggressively defend Obama’s record on Israel. They cited, among other things, the need to defend Obama on the flap over his call for peace talks based on the pre-1967 lines with swaps and his failure to visit Israel thus far.
Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, the DNC chair who is one of the leaders of Obama’s Jewish outreach effort, repeatedly directed the Jewish leaders on the call to a new and extensive set of talking points and other materials on Obama’s campaign Web site that strongly vouch for Obama’s record on Israel. Wasserman-Schultz pointedly told listeners that they needed to voice those points as often as possible and disseminate them to friends and allies for their use.
“We must repeat them over and over, because message delivery has to be simple and repetitious,” Wasserman-Schultz told listeners, exhorting her listeners not to “play defense.”
“Don’t leave the outreach exclusively to the campaign,” she said at another point. “It is absolutely imperative that each of us serve as a surrogate.” She called on listeners to “write and craft your own email” to friends and supporters, and to “attach these documents.”
Crucially, Wasserman-Schultz called on listeners to stress Obama’s domestic record, too — a reminder that the campaign is banking on the fact that Jewish voters side with Democrats on many issues unrelated to Israel. She said Obama was far better than Republicans “on every issue that matters to this community.”
Another top Obama Jewish outreach surrogate on the call, former Dem Rep. Robert Wexler, seemed to suggest that Obama might visit Israel — something some in the Jewish community have criticized Obama for failing to do thus far.
“We’re all both hopeful and confident that the President will in fact visit Israel, but we also need to be mindful of historical precedent,” Wexler said, adding that former President Bush didn’t visit until his eight year, and that Ronald Reagan never visited during his two terms.
Separately, Ben Smith reports that Obama surrogates responded quickly and forcefully today to Rick Perry’s criticism of Obama’s record on Israel, another sign of stepped up activity on this front.
As I’ve said before, the prediction that Dem Presidential candidates are always on the verge of losing Jewish support is a perennial one that never seems to come to pass. But the NY-9 result does seem to have persuaded some Dems that it’s a possiblity that needs to be taken seriously. And Obama’s advisers seem to be doing just that, as well they should.