September 14th, 2011
10:14 AM ET

Does Dems' loss mean trouble with Jewish voters?

By Dan Gilgoff, CNN.com Religion Editor

(CNN) - Republicans jumped on the Democrats’ Tuesday loss of the congressional seat given up by disgraced U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner as a sign of eroding Jewish support for President Barack Obama and his party.

New York’s heavily Democratic 9th Congressional District, centered on Brooklyn and Queens, is one of the most Jewish in the nation, and the Democratic candidate was an Orthodox Jew.

"This Republican win in an overwhelmingly Democrat district is a significant indicator of the problem that President Obama has in the Jewish community,” Republican Jewish Coalition executive director Matt Brooks said after Republican Bob Turner won Tuesday’s special election, an outcome that few had predicted a couple of months ago.

“While party leaders scramble to deny and try to stem the erosion of Jewish support for Democrats, the real issue is this President's policies on Israel, on jobs, and on the economy,” Brooks said in a statement late Tuesday. "Bob Turner's win tonight has huge implications for 2012 races in states with large Jewish communities, such as Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.”

Turner, a former cable television executive who faced a steep fundraising disadvantage against Democrat David Weprin, framed the race as a referendum on Obama. He continually blasted the president’s posture toward Israel as insufficiently supportive.

Former New York Mayor Ed Koch, a Jewish Democrat, endorsed Turner for Congress, citing Israel as the primary reason.

“My support for Mr. Turner is intended to send a message to President Obama that he cannot throw Israel under the bus with impunity,” Koch wrote recently, explaining his endorsement.

At Turner’s Tuesday night victory party, where there was a heavy Orthodox Jewish presence, Koch said: "I like President Obama. ... I helped get him elected.”

"But he threw Israel under the bus," Koch said.

Recent surveys from the Siena College Research Institute suggested that Weprin suffered from a sharp decline in Jewish support over the course of August, with a 21-point lead among Jewish likely voters dwindling to 6 points last week.

Siena College pollster Steven Greenberg said the Democratic candidate's falloff in Jewish support came at the hands of defecting Jewish independents and Republicans. Greenberg estimates that New York’s 9th District is about a quarter Jewish.

A Wednesday polling memo from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee did not mention the role of Israel in the New York race, but said that “Republicans used the Karl Rove playbook to scare small, discrete groups of single-issue voters in a low turnout election.”

“For example, Tea Party Republican Bob Turner played on New Yorkers fear and anxiety around the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks,” the memo said. “Turner’s TV ads and mailers included images of the TwinTowers burning and the so-called Ground Zero mosque. Republican outside groups targeted Republican voters, Italian and Irish Catholics, and Orthodox Jews.”

Some Orthodox Jewish rabbis criticized Weprin during the campaign for supporting same-sex marriage as a New York state assemblyman. The National Organization for Marriage, a group opposed to same-sex marriage, spent $75,000 to defeat Weprin, including through mailers to Jewish voters.

“NOM played a major role in this election, helping to organize the Jewish and Hispanic communities to coalesce with Republicans, conservative and other pro-family voters,” the group said in a statement Wednesday. “We mounted the first and largest independent expenditure campaign in the race to make marriage a key issue, and we succeeded.”

A Siena poll earlier this month found that 76% of Jewish likely voters in Weiner’s old district said the country is headed in the wrong direction and that just 42% had a favorable view of Obama.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, meanwhile, enjoyed a 76% approval rating among Jewish likely voters in New York’s 9th District.

Democrats have traditionally enjoyed overwhelming levels of Jewish support.

Greenberg said that Obama is suffering among Democratic voters more broadly and that “Jewish voters are no different than all the voters in the district.”

In a May speech, Obama said that Israel's 1967 borders should be a starting point for peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians and land swaps, provoking criticism from some Jewish leaders.

But a July poll from Gallup found that Obama had a 60% job approval rating among Jewish Americans, and that the speech was "not a watershed in Jewish views toward Obama.”

Sen. Joseph Lieberman, an independent from Connecticut and an Orthodox Jew, endorsed Weprin over the summer and came to his defense on Israel.

"While David Weprin can be counted on to fight for the safety and security of the State of Israel, we can also rely on him to protect the seniors and working families of Brooklyn and Queens," Lieberman said in July.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Judaism • New York • Politics

soundoff (766 Responses)
  1. TheTraveler

    Problem is, Jewish voters consider themselves "Jewish" first, and "Americans" second. Same for practically any large ethnic or religious population in America these days. There are no "Americans" here anymore. We have Jewish-Americans, Irish-Americans, Polish-Americans, Mexican-Americans, African-Americans, etc.

    Just wait and watch the political speech making this year. Candidates will woo the "Insert Ethnic-American" vote .... blah, blah, blah.

    September 14, 2011 at 12:41 pm |
    • Jason

      I'm an Irish American and I'd never vote based on America's policies towards Ireland any more than I would concerning any other nation.

      I understand why immigrants from any nation would have a strong connection to their land of origin, but people who were born in America have frankly no excuse to put their parents land of birth before their own land of birth. There's really no excuse for American Jews, who have for the most part never lived in Israel and who were, for the most part, born in the USA, to make Israel the cornerstone of their political life.

      However, it's even more inexplicable that American Evangelical Christians are so obsessed about it.

      September 14, 2011 at 12:50 pm |
    • Peikovian

      Israel was once described as another Ireland in terms of being a problem for the UK. There is a long history of Irish-Americans voting as a bloc and events in Ireland do matter to them when sensing which American politician is friend or foe.

      September 14, 2011 at 1:09 pm |
    • Jason

      Peikovian: this is not the 19th century. The idea of Irish voting in blocs on anything higher than a municipal level is laughable.

      The descendants of Irish immigrants, while generally aware of their heritage, don't identify with that heritage the same way that Jews do. There is no "Irish Lobby" trying to push a pro Ireland agenda. Whether it was during the fighting over Northern Ireland or the current economic crisis that is being faced in Ireland, the tens of millions of Americans who are descended from Irish ancestors are not demanding that the US prop up Ireland or offer direct support.

      The situation with Israel is exclusive to Israel. They're the greatest recipient of American aid, both material and political, and in return they offer nothing except aggravation.

      September 14, 2011 at 1:45 pm |
  2. david

    Why 80% of the jews voted for a muslim raied socialist as president is beyond me.

    September 14, 2011 at 12:41 pm |
    • SCAtheist

      Maybe because he's not a Muslim or a socialist? But thanks for chiming in Rush.

      September 14, 2011 at 12:47 pm |
    • Nodack

      Maybe they didn't want to be associated with your group that likes to make up lies instead of relying on the truth to sell your sad stale old party of old white rich men and dumb as a post sheep that do as their are told by their FOX propaganda masters.

      September 14, 2011 at 1:12 pm |
  3. hmnd

    Jews consider themselves Israelis first and American second. That is how the Repubs get the Jews to vote for them using fear mongering telling them the Dems don't care about Israel. The story above is a great example.

    September 14, 2011 at 12:40 pm |
    • Emanuel

      I totally agree with you. I just want to know how president Obama threw Israel under the bus like some are claiming? Is it because he told their ungreatful BIBI to wake up, it's time to give the Palestinians a "part" of their land? Or is it because he told him to stop killing innocent people left and right? Israel has been nothing but a burden on us, by breaking every single International law......I blame the AMERICAN JEWS, for not stopping this....If a counrty is existing only because of the military power, and their oxygen is only from the US...It's only a matter of time to collapse unless my fellow AMERICAN JEWS use their AMERICAN side and open their eyes.

      September 14, 2011 at 12:57 pm |
  4. CJ

    Remember that Leiberman sided with the Republicans over his support for Israel. There is a large group of jews in America who care about Israel first and will change parties and alligences on a dime if it is what is best for Israel. (not what is best for the United States of America)

    September 14, 2011 at 12:40 pm |
  5. Gordon

    American Jews are going to have an opinion about Israel just like So. Fl Cubans have an opinion and influence when it come to Castro. Its in their interest, they are concentrated in big swing states and they make it work for them. As a Jew, who by the way disagrees with the current Israeli government handling of many issues, I read peoples bigoted comments here and am reminded, I may need to flee to Israel on short notice. Hell yes, I'm going to do everything possible to make sure its there and safe for me!

    September 14, 2011 at 12:39 pm |
    • SCAtheist

      Wow that is one of the worst cases of the Jewish Persecution Complex I have seen in a long time. So everybody is after you huh?

      September 14, 2011 at 12:46 pm |
  6. Steve

    Jews in this country want to make sure that Israel can continue to persecute the Palestinians. They'd rather make sure that Israel keeps going down this brutal path than making sure that those of us who are not rich in this country have a fighting chance. Are they Americans or are they Israelis? Koch is a traitor.

    September 14, 2011 at 12:38 pm |
    • Joe Christianson

      You Sir are an @ss

      September 14, 2011 at 12:40 pm |
    • SCAtheist

      I do think Koch is a kind of traitor. Certainly more than Ben Bernanke.

      September 14, 2011 at 12:44 pm |
    • Citizens first government second

      I am pretty sick of this country catering to Israel. Israel isn't helping protect use from Mexicans are they? We have out own crap to worry about. Time change, time for them to stand on their own feet.

      September 14, 2011 at 12:49 pm |
  7. Denise

    NEWS FLASH!!! ALL humans are racist and/or bigots. It's sad that in 2011 we are still identifying and separating because of this. 99.9% of the people commenting on this blog are idiots...just go through and read for yourself. The way we act is learned behavior. It's not from God...that's not who He is. He is love...period. This is nothing new about the Jewish people...learned behavior. They have a right to think and feel how the want...as do every other race, religious group, culture, etc. I just hope in the end you all are right...hell is a very hot place. Snooches. P.S. I won't ever get to ready your response to my comment so say what you want to...I won't be offended. LOL!!!

    September 14, 2011 at 12:38 pm |
  8. proudmemberofglobalzero

    Orthodox Jews are against Gay marriage. They are against anything but Israel. They are against freedom of religion unless it is ours. I have been talking with a great many elderly Jewish voters in Palm Beach County Florida. The miss information they get amazes me. After conversations with them, I give them the research they need to see that President Obama has our best interests at heart.

    September 14, 2011 at 12:37 pm |
    • Nodack

      People don't look up facts or even know where to find them. I'm an internet news junky and half the time I don't know what to believe. Propaganda and more propaganda. For it to be true somebody just has to say it. Republicans figured that out a long time ago. FOX News is a good example.

      No President has managed a settlement between Palestine and Israel. Obama was right, but he should have lied or not said anything instead of the truth. It would have bought him more votes, but maybe it was important to Obama do dothe right thing.

      September 14, 2011 at 1:05 pm |
  9. 46th Pres

    As long as you have Joe Biden and Barack Obama stating that Israel has to get used to a nuclear Iran, they will not get the support of the Jewish community.

    September 14, 2011 at 12:36 pm |
    • SCAtheist

      So what's your plan? Walk over there and take Iran's nukes from them?

      September 14, 2011 at 12:43 pm |
  10. SCAtheist

    Thanks much Russ. FedEx would be great.

    September 14, 2011 at 12:36 pm |
  11. M. Dub

    They don't use the "N" word. Ever hear the word Schvartz? At least in Chicago anyway.

    September 14, 2011 at 12:34 pm |
    • CJ

      I have heard jews use that word for blacks at my first employer.

      September 14, 2011 at 12:36 pm |
  12. CJ

    I believe that the last time I checked Israel was still in pretty good shape. Obama has pressed Israel to start negotiating for a Palestinian and a Jewish state side by side. (If someone wants to not vote for him for that reason alone) That is a shame.
    I would like to think that you would at least consider voting for what is best for the United States.

    September 14, 2011 at 12:34 pm |
    • billy d

      i think whats best for the nation could of been Obama but sir he blew that chance with failing at every single corner that a president could fail with his expectations......he's not as bad as bush yet but let me assure you he isn't far from the bottom of the barrel. It pains me to admit this but he might be the biggest disappointment this country has seen politically with the type of fire he had to begin with.....he will best be known for speeches to this point....how sad...

      September 14, 2011 at 12:43 pm |
    • MatrisInlumino

      Unfortunately, it's not that cut and dry. If the President was really concerned about US issues, he would not have cut education (against his promises by the way), and other things that sounded great and were promised in the running of his presidency but never followed through or completely went the other way.

      As for the Jews and Obama, can you NOT SEE? His priorities lie with the Muslim world rather than the American world. So sad for us. So sad.

      September 14, 2011 at 12:48 pm |
  13. Jake marhoon

    Israeli's hostile and racist policies continually harm the USA. Israel has chosen land over peace and in doing so will never obtain the later. The jewish lobbyist control both parties in this country our elected officals and business leaders fear the retribution they'll get if they if they dare to critize israel in the slightist way. I am afraid the future for israel is a bleak one and thier politicians and supporters who chose land over peace are responsible for creating a mess. You took a good country and created militant state that survives but can never rest.

    September 14, 2011 at 12:33 pm |
    • Fatima

      Yeah, when you live in a country that is smaller in size that New Jersey, I can see why preserving the borders from tyrants is important.

      September 14, 2011 at 12:41 pm |
    • Jake marhoon

      Fatima, occupying the west bank and turning gaza into a ghetto is the act of a tyranical state. The hostility toward our country all goes back to israel's policies, occupation, and our support for it. We're Americans first our loyality is exclusive to our nation and our people and no american leader should put any country or cause before the people of the united states. america first and only america.

      September 14, 2011 at 1:01 pm |
  14. Spacial

    Obama needs to go and I for one do not care what the reason is behind the vote. Just get it done.

    September 14, 2011 at 12:30 pm |
  15. Andrea

    @Steve from Phoenix...you are a sad person!! The Islamic religion is not the problem it is the radicals that associate themselves with Islam, just like in Christianity, Judaism and other religions there are extremist. You cannot hold every person from a group responsible for what others do. I am not Muslim, I am a Christian but it is time we stop accusing every Arab American of being a terrorist!

    As far as Israel, we need to stop worrying about other countries and get our county back on track. America is #1 over any other country and as Americans we should worry about what is going on in our own backyard not someone else’s. We need to stop aiding Israel in their fight against Palestine. You can't go to someone else's country and kick them out, kill their people, and not allow them free travel in their own country. You would think that Israel would not want to treat another race/religion the way they were treated during WWII. Palestinians are human and do not deserve what the Jews are doing to them and as Americans we should not support anyone who is willing to treat someone the way the Jews treat the Palestinians.

    September 14, 2011 at 12:27 pm |
    • Fatima

      No rational being can stand and watch in silence the tiny nation of Israel being BULLIED!!!

      September 14, 2011 at 12:36 pm |
    • SCAtheist

      I think Israel is doing the bullying, sorry.

      September 14, 2011 at 12:41 pm |
    • khan in usa

      Thank you very much for the voice of reason. I agree that Israel has a right to exists, and innocent people don't have to suffer because of the radicals in any religion. Islam has alot of apples, but other religions has too. As Americans, we need to focus on who is good for the US, not isreal or Egypt or any other country on the planet. Americans are the best and most caring peolpe in the world, but our world is in sad shape, and we need to take care of us first, once we are in good shape, we will take care of the world as we have been doing it for a long time.

      September 14, 2011 at 12:43 pm |
    • Fatima

      When you live in a country that is smaller than New Jersey you will learn to appreciate your borders!

      September 14, 2011 at 12:45 pm |
    • khan in usa

      So, here in the US, we elect our officials who are good for the other countries. Do Israelis elect candidates who are good for US, and if they do, they are doing a dis-service to Israel.

      September 14, 2011 at 12:51 pm |
  16. 11:11

    I read these comments I can't tell if it is 2011 or 1934. Even if Nostradamus wasn't correct, it looks like a lot of idiots will make his predictions come true. I would have said the bible, but it would be too much for folks like atheist to resist. So use aliens or Nostradamus... much easier to believe for people who never understood Horton Hears a Who.

    September 14, 2011 at 12:25 pm |
    • SCAtheist


      September 14, 2011 at 12:40 pm |
  17. Seperate but equal

    By all means support the ones who look down on you because they have one hatred/bigotry in common with you – I'm sure they won't turn on you as well.

    September 14, 2011 at 12:24 pm |
  18. JOE

    This is such a stupid article. Anthony Weiner is Jewish and he is a Democrat and Eric Cantor is Jewish and he's a Republican and while the former seems to be a patriotic American who loves his country and wished to see progress, the latter is anti-American who's only wish is to see president Obama and America fail. So how could you say that Jewish Americans are against the Obama administration? And what has the Obama administration done to disrespect or offend the Jewish poppulation? This is just another fear/hate mongering tactic by the GOP. This may have worked in the midterm election but it will never work in 2012.

    September 14, 2011 at 12:22 pm |
    • SCAtheist

      True, but it seems like it worked.

      September 14, 2011 at 12:39 pm |
    • Nodack

      You are right.

      What issues did they say the Republican candidate ran on? He ran on trying to convince the Jewish voters that Obama and Democrats are anti Jewish and it worked.

      In Florida they try to convince the voters that Obama is ant old people.

      If little kids could vote Republicans would tell little kids "Obama hates you!" and then promise them a tax break on candy.

      And in general instances thay just say that Obama is anti America.

      September 14, 2011 at 12:48 pm |
  19. nhop

    I find it disturbing that any group of Americans would put the interests of another country ahead of those of the United States and the American people. If polling indicates Jews did desert the Democratic Party because of President Obama's alleged criticism of Israel, they are not worthy to be called Americans.

    September 14, 2011 at 12:21 pm |
    • SDnNYC

      Amazing how folks are ready to jump on Jews for wanting our country to back Israel. Funny how Jews who vote for a politician who will stand up for support of Israel is wrong, but Americans that vote for a president based on skin color is perfectly fine. Amazing double standard

      September 14, 2011 at 12:35 pm |
    • SCAtheist

      Okay now there isn't much evidence or logic there.

      I don't go to the polls thinking about race or the amount of support the US has for Scotland.

      September 14, 2011 at 12:38 pm |
  20. gaucho420

    Imagine if Catholics acted this way on our policies about Italy? This is RIDICULOUS. And over a country that is ubber racist to boot. I just had a Jewish friend come back from Israel, over 6 months...and he was shocked at how everyone uses the N word and how they're all racist.

    His Jewish words, not mine.

    September 14, 2011 at 12:20 pm |
    • Joe Christianson

      Catholic Priests like little boys and used them for years.. the words of the police in multiple nations not mine. How about a rational conversation instead of hearsay?

      September 14, 2011 at 12:43 pm |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.