For Barack Obama, all roads to the White House lead through Florida – and Israel
President battles to dispel Republican accusations as he woos the key Jewish vote
When Barack Obama spoke at a rally near Cape Canaveral two days ago to press home his support for the local space industry, a single heckler persistently shouted from the back of the crowd, "What about Israel?". It was a reminder – as if he needed it – that his hold on the crucial Jewish vote in South Florida may be in jeopardy.
For weeks now, the Mitt Romney campaign has been touting the notion that when it comes to Israel, the United States has not been the friend it is meant to be under President Obama. And it is being brazenly trumpeted up and down the interstate highways in this part of Florida with billboards proclaiming, "Obama… Oy Vey!"
In 2008 Mr Obama won the votes of 78 per cent of Jewish Americans; Mr Romney making inroads into that support could have important consequences, particularly in swing states with small, if significant, Jewish blocks like Ohio, Pennsylvania and especially Florida, where the margin of victory for either side might be very slim indeed. George W Bush took Florida in 2000 from Al Gore, with the help of the US Supreme Court, by 537 votes. Last night Bill Clinton was due in Miami to address grassroots supporters.
The sudden focus on the Jewish vote is a reminder that Mr Obama is in essence fighting multiple campaigns at once. There is the national platform with its overarching theme of defending the middle class, and beyond it there are sub-campaigns tailored to a wide range of key individual constituencies, including women, retirees, gays, African Americans, Hispanic Americans, Jewish Americans, veterans (and, yes, even space industry employees). Appealing to those groups – each was assiduously wooed from the stage at the Democratic convention - is especially important in an election which hangs on a sliver of undecided voters in only seven or eight states.
Not everyone agrees that Mr Obama is guilty of forsaking Israel. Professor Robert Freedman, of Baltimore Hebrew University, points to increased military aid for Israel and the lengths the US went to last year to block efforts by the Palestinian Authority to use the United Nations as a forum to achieve statehood. "Mr Obama has been the best US president for Israel in history," he wrote in the Baltimore Sun.
However, it is an impression that the Republicans have nurtured, pointing to slow progress on Middle East peace and to Mr Obama's reluctance to support an Israeli strike against Iran. They also highlight the difficult relationship between the President and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
"The only thing they can try to talk about is to scare Jews on Israel," commented Marc Stanley, chairman of the National Democratic Jewish Council. "Because if they go to the other issues Jews care about – choice, education, poverty, health care, social justice, civil rights, equal rights – Jews resoundingly vote Democratic."
Random conversations with Jewish voters suggest he may be right. "Obama has done everything he could possibly have done [to support Israel and tackle Iran]," said Dan Goldstein, 67. "It's very easy for the Republicans to say anything negative about the Democrats."
"The Republicans are very adept at inventing a story that suits their goal of stripping Mr Obama of his accomplishments," says Morty Esam, 76, who is more concerned with the economy and what he says has been Republican obstructionism. "The Republicans are committed to blocking anything that Obama might accomplish in Congress and they use that as fodder to say the Democrats haven't done enough."
The Democrats did not help themselves at the convention when they first failed to state in the party platform that "Jerusalem is and will remain the capital of Israel". It was reinserted with a floor vote at the request of President Obama. That he felt the need to intervene was itself revealing: he knows that losing even a single Jewish vote is something he cannot afford.
- 1 'Fire at every person you see': Israeli soldiers reveal they were ordered to shoot to kill in Gaza – even if the targets may have been civilians
- 2 Italian police 'reveal' what Jesus looked like as a young boy
- 3 General Election 2015: 14-year-old boy asks Nick Clegg – 'can you kill Katie Hopkins?'
- 4 Garland shooting: Isis claims attack on Prophet Mohamed cartoon contest in Texas as its first action on US soil
- 5 Met Gala 2015: Beyoncé manages to out-skimp Rihanna, Miley and Kim Kardashian combined with near-naked ensemble
Italian police 'reveal' what Jesus looked like as a young boy
Who should I vote for? The Independent quiz matches best political party for undecided voters ahead of the general election
Met Gala 2015: Beyoncé manages to out-skimp Rihanna, Miley and Kim Kardashian combined with near-naked ensemble
Syria's 'circle of hell': Aleppo residents describe children without heads, streets filled with blood and injuries never before witnessed by surgeons
General Election 2015: Photographic history of Bullingdon Club tracked down - including new picture of David Cameron in his finery
In defence of liberal democracy
Over 50,000 families shipped out of London boroughs in the past three years due to welfare cuts and soaring rents
EU asylum policy is 'a direct threat to our civilisation', says Nigel Farage
The Rothschild Libel: Why has it taken 200 years for an anti-Semitic slur that emerged from the Battle of Waterloo to be dismissed?
General Election 2015: UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power, Labour warns
General election live: SNP suspends two members for disrupting Labour rally
£20000 - £25000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Are you great at building rela...
£20000 - £22000 per annum + excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Application Sup...
£20000 - £25000 per annum + Uncapped Commission: SThree: Do you want to get in...
£35000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Manager - Birmingham - ...