So how seriously are Dems taking the possibility that Obama could lose Jewish votes, now that billionaire Sheldon Adelson is planning a multi-million-dollar campaign to hammer Obama over Israel?
A group of wealthy and influential Democrats is quietly putting together their own effort to raise several million dollars to counter Adelson’s efforts in key swing states, by aggressively pushing back on criticism of Obama’s record on Israel and reminding Jewish voters that he agrees with them on domestic issues they care about, I’m told.
The effort — which involves Dems like Harvey Weinstein and Rahm Emanuel — is effectively an acknowledgment that Dems need to take the possibility of Jewish defections seriously, that Republicans have gotten an early start in their efforts to peel off swing state Jewish voters, and that small shifts could impact the outcome.
“The possibility exists that the swift-boating of the President’s record will confuse voters — that is always a danger situation,” Marc Stanley, a Texas lawyer who is organizing the effort, tells me. “We need to amass the resources to fight against the big amounts of money that Sheldon Adelson and others have given to the Republican Jewish Coalition and also to the Emergency Committee for Israel.”
Adelson, a casino magnate, and other members of RJC’s board have pledged to spend at least $6.5 million on an effort to paint Obama as hostile to Israel in battleground states like Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania. The ECI, which was co-founded by Bill Kristol, is also running newspaper and other ads aimed at doing the same.
The new effort by Dems is unlikely to raise the amounts of money that Adelson and company have vowed, Stanley concedes, noting that the group hopes to raise $2 million or $3 million. So the group will focus on maximizing its impact among targeted communities in key swing states.
Rahm Emanuel has advised the group on how to push back against the GOP attacks over Israel and on how to geographically target their pushback, says Stanley, who’s been meeting with major Dem donors. He adds that Harvey Weinstein has agreed to produce media for the group.
”This is all about the Jewish vote in Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Nevada and Wisconsin,” says Stanley, who is also chairman of the National Jewish Democratic Council, from which the group will be run for now. “We’re going to spend our money where we can be effective.” The group will fund polling, focus groups, mailers, social media and probably TV ads.
Many Dems believe the key to preventing Jewish defections is that Jews are not one-issue voters on Israel, and on domestic issues are much more in sync with Democrats. So the pushback will also emphasize choice, health care, education, social justice and marriage equality.
“These are the issues we’re taught as Jews to support,” Stanley says. “Tikkun Olam — to repair the world. That’s why Jews historically vote Democratic.”
Even if Republicans do win over more Jewish voters than usual, it’s unclear how much of a difference it could make, given that they comprise just 3.3 percent of Florida’s population, 2.3 percent of Pennsylvania’s and 1.3 percent of Ohio’s. In a sense, the fact that both sides are willing to pour serious resources into the battle for such a tiny slice of the electorate underscores just how close this race seems to be.
Update: Rahm has advised the group on how to set itself up, and on how to go about rebutting attacks on Obama’s record, but he won’t be a formal adviser to it going forward.