When Jewish Republicans around the country enter the voting booths in 10 primaries and caucuses on next week’s Super Tuesday, they will see three candidates, each of whom still has a fighting chance of securing the GOP presidential nomination.
In this unpredictable race that has seen multiple twists, turns, and momentum shifts, one thing is clear: No one is backing down just yet.
“This is going to be a dogfight. I don’t think anybody is dropping out,” Richard Baehr, chief political correspondent for American Thinker, said in an interview with JointMedia News Service (JNS). “I think the candidates will be well-funded enough to make it through for a while.”
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich all have expressed pro-Israel sentiments in public debates, leaving Jewish Republicans with the task of distinguishing them from each other to arrive at their candidate of choice.
Romney – the longtime frontrunner until surges first by Gingrich, and more recently Santorum – has used every opportunity to establish his bona fides with Jewish voters. He would put pressure on the Palestinian leadership to recognize Israel as a Jewish state, and to cease violence by Hamas and other terrorist groups in the region.
On Iran, Romney supports keeping the military option “on the table,” and imposing a fifth round of sanctions that would target the Revolutionary Guard Corps, the Central Bank, and other financial institutions. He has also stated several times that there should be no preconditions on the Jewish state, and that it should be allowed to make decisions independently.
“The right course for us is not to try and negotiate for Israel,” Romney said in September.
“[It is] to stand behind our friends, to listen to them and to let the entire world know that we will stay with them, and that we will support them and defend them,” he said.
Romney also has strongly criticized President Barack Obama and his administration for their Israel policies. He claimed that Obama “threw Israel under the bus” when, in Romney’s opinon, the president called on it to return to the pre-June 1967 borders. Actually, Obama was restating U.S. policy unchanged over the last 45 years, that the pre-Six-Day War borders were the starting point for negotiations.
Tevi Troy – a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, a former deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, a onetime liaison to the Jewish community under the Bush administration, and a special unpaid adviser to the Romney campaign – said that he sees a “significant contrast between [Romney’s] strong pro-Israel position and what we’ve seen as a consistent coldness in the Obama administration [on the issue of Israel].”
Romney has insisted that any disagreements with an ally should be voiced behind closed doors.
“If you’ve got an issue with [Prime Minister Binyamin} Netanyahu, then sit down in private and hammer it out, but then come out, hold arms together and say ‘we’re together,'” Romney said in an interview with Fox News. “Because ultimately, if you don’t do that, then the foes of America, or of our allies around the world, they take courage from what they think is a split between us.”
Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass., said Romney’s skill in the economic sector is another one of his great strengths. In an interview with JNS, Brown touted Romney as “one of the nicest, honest, hard-working men I’ve ever met.” When it comes to the economic issues, Brown said, “there’s no one who can handle them” the way Romney can.
According to Troy, Romney is the “total package.”
“[He is] the best option for Israel and a strong contrast to Obama in the fall,” Troy concluded.
A social and fiscal conservative known for his steady focus on U.S. policy toward Iran, Santorum has called the “theocracy in Iran” a “real existential threat to the state of Israel.”
Santorum, who introduced sanctions on Iran’s nuclear program back in 2004, said the United States needs to make it clear that it “will stop Iran [from] getting a nuclear weapon. Period.” Santorum has also described the power of oil, saying that it “has given the capability of the radical Islamists to retool and re-arm, and to have capabilities increasingly equal to our own.”
Chris DeSanctis, an adjunct professor in the Department of Government and Politics at Sacred Heart University in Connecticut, said Santorum has been the most “consistent as far as his viewpoint and worldview on government.
“He’s supported conservative causes from social issues to fiscal issues to his support for Israel unwaveringly throughout the years,” DeSanctis told JNS.
“You can trust Santorum a lot more than you can the other two candidates,” DeSanctis said, calling the former senator the only candidate in the field who is forcefully “talking about the external threat to Israel in regards to terrorism.”
The former House speaker set a tone as perhaps the most outspoken pro-Israel candidate in this race when he called the Palestinians an “invented” people in an interview with The Jewish Channel. Although “there’s always a little bit of pandering” during election season, said Baehr, Gingrich’s statement was historically accurate, and “he can defend pretty much everything he says.
“He does know the history, and I think he’s taken it seriously,” Baehr said, adding that Gingrich “made support for Israel a prime issue for Republicans in Congress, and when they took control of the Senate and the House in 1994, it became high on their agenda.”
Gingrich also has the support of noted Jewish philanthropist and casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, who has already contributed $11 million to Gingrich’s super PAC. Adelson is expected to donate at least $10 million more, recently telling Forbes, “I might give $10 million or $100 million to Gingrich.”
Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) President Morton Klein told the Associated Press that Gingrich has been known as “one of the few politicians who has had the courage to tell the truth about Israel,” identifying that as the reason for Gingrich’s relationship with Adelson.
Who has the Jewish vote?
According to Dr. Ira Sheskin, director of the Jewish Demography Project of the Sue and Leonard Miller Center for Contemporary Jewish Studies at the University of Miami, Romney’s appeal to Jewish voters extends beyond his stance on Israel and Iran. Of the three likely Republican candidates, Romney likely will capture the most Jewish votes if nominated, he says.
“Everyone knows he is kind of a moderate on a lot of things and consequently he could do a lot better than the other two” among Jewish voters, Sheskin said in a phone interview. Santorum, Sheskin continued, has the least chance of the Republican candidates to win Jewish votes because of his conservative views on social issues.
“If [he] gets the Republican nomination, they’re going to do as badly as the Democrats did when they nominated George McGovern. He will do miserably in the general election, but even more so in the Jewish vote.”
Gingrich is somewhere between the two, Sheskin concluded; he is conservative, but he is known for his ability to compromise.
Baehr noted that there are many Jewish Republicans “who are more moderate on social issues, which kind of reflects the [Jewish] community in general, both Democrats and Republicans,” which works against Santorum’s chances.
Although Gingrich “has the most emotional level of [Jewish Republican] support” because he has been more outspoken than the other two candidates, Romney remains the “slight favorite” to be nominated, according to Baehr.
“[Romney] is probably the second favorite among Jewish Republicans, but probably the favorite among Jews who might consider voting for a Republican who are not typically Republican,” Baehr concluded, “and I think Santorum comes in third in part just because he wears his social conservatism on his sleeve, and that makes a lot of moderates on social issues or liberals on social issues in the Jewish community nervous.”
JointMedia News Service