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

Fort Lauderdale

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.

Life and Style
life
Arts and Entertainment
Diana from the Great British Bake Off 2014
tvProducers confirm contestant left because of illness
News
Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie reportedly married in secret on Saturday
peopleSpokesperson for couple confirms they tied the knot on Saturday after almost a decade together
Life and Style
Chen Mao recovers in BK Hospital, Seoul
health
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Client-Side web developer (JQuery, Javascript, UI, JMX, FIX)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Client-Side web developer (JQuery, Javascript, U...

Structured Finance

Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: CITY - An excellent new instruction w...

SQL Server Developer

£500 per day: Harrington Starr: SQL Server Developer SQL, PHP, C#, Real Time,...

C#.NET Developer

£600 per day: Harrington Starr: C#.NET Developer C#, Win Forms, WPF, WCF, MVVM...

Day In a Page

Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone
Amazon is buying Twitch for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?

What is the appeal of Twitch?

Amazon is buying the video-game-themed online streaming site for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?
Tip-tapping typewriters, ripe pongs and slides in the office: Bosses are inventing surprising ways of making us work harder

How bosses are making us work harder

As it is revealed that one newspaper office pumps out the sound of typewriters to increase productivity, Gillian Orr explores the other devices designed to motivate staff