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. Yoann

    I think this victory for the republicans shows that Jews only care about Israel and not the USA, very treasonous behavior. All turner talked about was what he would do for Israel, not Brooklyn or the USA

    September 14, 2011 at 1:10 pm |
    • Carlos

      Yep, time for you to wake up... America is being used as a proxy fighting wars for israel.

      September 14, 2011 at 1:17 pm |
    • Paqrat137

      Yoann: As a Democrat and a Jew from the district, I am very concerned about Israel as a campaign tool. I cannot believe that as Americans, this district could be so blinded by the Israel issue as to negate that myriad of problems we face as American citizens. Saying that, however, I would not vote for a Republican and am sorry he won. His real agenda, that of the Republican Party will do more harm than good, and will take Israel with it. The electorate is not sophisticated nor educated. Let's see if they are happy with their choice in the House three months, or a year from now.

      September 14, 2011 at 1:34 pm |
  2. Jim Jensen

    The article does little to convince that Obama's loss of appeal has much to do with religion.

    September 14, 2011 at 1:10 pm |
  3. Tom

    Jewish voters it appears, would rather vote in a party that is right wing Christian oriented. then someone who may not 150% support Israel. They don't seem to get that these people view them as Godless if they are not Christian.

    September 14, 2011 at 1:10 pm |
    • Lee

      Yep, I laugh. One thing you can count on all religions to do is when push comes to shove, they will violently attack one another. It is just a matter of time. The only thing going for it is right wing brainwash about Israel being in a "holy land".

      September 14, 2011 at 1:13 pm |
  4. hmmmmi

    like american hispanics who put mexico ahead of u.s., american jews put israel ahead of u.s. too.

    September 14, 2011 at 1:08 pm |
  5. Dannytelevision

    Can't wait to see Rick Perry wearing a yarmulke

    September 14, 2011 at 1:08 pm |
    • SCAtheist

      I want to see that. I bet he won't, but let's see.

      September 14, 2011 at 1:10 pm |
  6. Peikovian

    They were worried about the safety of friends and relatives abroad due to the shift in the Democrats' foreign policy. No matter how much the election results are spun, and Democrats are good at such things, the fact remains that the voters were worried about the safety of friends and relatives abroad due to the shift in the Democrats' foreign policy. No matter how smart you claim to be, if you don't understand that you're still a fcking idiot.

    September 14, 2011 at 1:06 pm |
    • SCAtheist

      I agree with that. The Arab spring scares the hell out of them. So maybe Israel should change policy and support the right of self-determination for all people and not just themselves.

      September 14, 2011 at 1:08 pm |
  7. George

    What kind of Americans are they that they vote for the person who will cowtow to Israel before what is good for the American people. You Jews in that district are a disgrace to America. You live here, vote for who is best for here.

    September 14, 2011 at 1:06 pm |
  8. Annexian

    Do you mean Jewish or the "Subversive Israel Lobby" or is there a difference?

    Really, Israel's lobby by any other country's set of laws, especially theirs would be considered "Subversion".

    September 14, 2011 at 1:04 pm |
    • SCAtheist

      You don't believe in Scalia's version of free speech?

      September 14, 2011 at 1:05 pm |
  9. Joe B-b-b-b-bob

    Seems the NY Jewish voters are a bit thin-skinned and over-reactionary. Cutting their noses to spite their faces. Good thing this is not typical behavior.

    September 14, 2011 at 1:03 pm |
    • D

      As a Jew...I agree 100%

      September 14, 2011 at 1:06 pm |
  10. SCAtheist

    Are the Jewish voters angry enough to vote for Rick Perry?

    I thinking most of them are smart enough to know the earth is older than 6,000 years, and man prolly wasn't walking around with the dinos.

    September 14, 2011 at 1:01 pm |
  11. Kenfolk

    The 9th District has an unusually high number of Orthodox Jewish voters. Most are socially conservative and have a blind "Israel right or wrong" mentality. Most Jewish voters are not primarily focused on Israel. Many who are so focused are sophisticated enough to distinguish between support of Israel's existence as opposed to the policies of a particular Israeli government. Many, including myself, are more likely to support JStreet which is critical of the far right policies of the current Israeli government as opposed to AIPAC, which has unfortunately devolved into a voice of the Israeli right.

    September 14, 2011 at 12:59 pm |
    • Alex

      First off, besides the large number of Orthodox Jews, in this distric there are many like myself, immigrants or children of immigrants from the former Soviet Union. We are traditionally more conservative than the American Jews, but also, most of us have close family members in Israel and we are very troubled by some of our President's stances on Israel.
      All of my family members came over to vote and all had voted for the Republican Party.
      J Street is supported by a very tiny minority of Jewish voters, mostly those on the very left, and ones normally very much detached from Israel. J Street is almost like a fringe group.

      September 14, 2011 at 1:12 pm |
  12. Margroks

    Nonsense. Are soem Jewish votors angry because Obama openly suggested something that diplomats have been saying behind the scense for years? If so, get over it.

    September 14, 2011 at 12:55 pm |
  13. JOE

    Have you heard the latest? President Obama's disapproval rating is at an all time high. Before it was his approval rating. Now it's his disapproval rating. So what is the difference between the approval and disapproval rating when it come to judging or evaluating the progress of the most scrutinized administration in US history? So how do you disapprove what you previously approved to reject to begin with?

    When the president took office, his approval rating was at 60% because some believed that America shouldn't have elected a black president, this despite four hundred years in of a people in slavery helping to build the American South from the ground up. Then the president's approval rating dipped to 55% because he passed a stimulus bill to stabilize the broken American economy and prevent it from slipping into a catastrophic depression. Then his approval rating dropped to 50% because comprehensive healthcare to make coverage affordable for 30 million Americans and reduce our deficit by half a trillion dollars over a ten year period was passed. Then it dipped to 45% because the president forced the GOP to compromise and put the financial reform legislation on the books.

    Then our troops started coming home from the illegitimate Iraqi war and the president's approval rating dipped to an all time low. That is 40% if you're with me. Then the president made the gutsy call to send in our Navy seals to kill OBL with no American casualties and his approval rating dropped once more to 35%. Then the president avoided a government shutdown twice and his approval rating dropped dramatically to 25% if you'r doing the math. Then the president made the intellectual call of getting the world community on board to intervene militarily in Libya with no American casualties once more and his approval rating dropped to 5%. Then the president asked congress for a cpmprehensive jobs bill package and his approval rating dropped dramatically to 0%.

    So now that the president has no more approval rating to scrutinize or evaluate, the critics comes up with a new measuring stick called the president's disapproval rating. But nevertheless, when all is said and done, Obama/Biden in 2012.

    September 14, 2011 at 12:54 pm |
    • SCAtheist

      Thanks for the rambling post about Obama's approval rating.

      September 14, 2011 at 12:59 pm |
    • Jeff

      You sound as retarded as those that say Bush was a good president.

      September 14, 2011 at 1:06 pm |
    • Sam

      Joe, once you played the race card, everything else you said was just background noise. How do you know that some people didn't think Obama should have been elected because he is black? Where's your proof for all of your silly allegations?

      September 14, 2011 at 1:10 pm |
    • tj

      Very nicely put Joe.

      September 14, 2011 at 1:15 pm |
    • Carol from Queens

      You certainly nailed it. This country doesn't want to buckle down and do what it has to do to save the jobs, the economy, nor the deficit. Republicans and even some democrats are more intent on stalemating the President at every turn thus making him look ineffectual. He has been the most scrutinized President of this century and do you know why? Because he's black. This country has had enough of a black man in office and many would rather put the likes of a Michelle Bachman in office than to re-elect President Obama. I know who I'm voting for in 2012 and if the other side wins, this country is in for another downward spiral because those rich Reublican fat cats do not want to levy a tax on the wealthy to balance the budget.

      September 14, 2011 at 1:17 pm |
    • DianeD

      I did not vote for Obama because he was a junior senator who consistently voted "Present" and who had experience in "Community Organizer" ! My vote against Obama had NOTHING to do with his race!!

      September 14, 2011 at 1:17 pm |
    • Carol from Queens

      You certainly nailed it Joe. This country doesn't want to buckle down and do what it has to do to save the jobs, the economy, nor the deficit. Republicans and even some democrats are more intent on stalemating the President at every turn thus making him look ineffectual. He has been the most scrutinized President of this century and do you know why? Because he's black. This country has had enough of a black man in office and many would rather put the likes of a Michelle Bachman in office than to re-elect President Obama. I know who I'm voting for in 2012 and if the other side wins, this country is in for another downward spiral because those rich Reublican fat cats do not want to levy a tax on the wealthy to balance the budget.

      September 14, 2011 at 1:19 pm |
    • Paqrat137

      A bit off the topic: But before this Obama Disapproval thing – did anyone read that over 46% of Americans live in poverty? Did you also read that the gap between rich and poor is the widest it's been since the 1950's? Or did you note that the average white working males is making no more now, in real dollars, then he did 3o years ago? Yo see, we are blinded by the wrong information. Our economy will end up as it was at the beginning of the 20th century, and there will be rich and there will be poor. And let me ask you: who is fighting for whom and where are you on this economic scale?

      You believe your Republicans have you, the 98% of Americans in mind? Not for a second – they are already destroying a "modest" $400 billion plan to help the working classes, and why – because those earning over $250K/year will be asked to forgo some itemized deductions and hedge fund managers would be asked to pay taxes like we all do, based on income earned, rather than a taxes on capital gains – which the Republicans would like to lower.

      And why? Ask yourself why?

      September 14, 2011 at 1:56 pm |
  14. Howard

    Jewish voters may be a little frustrated with everything like most of the country but the last thing they will do is vote for any of the current republican Candidates!

    September 14, 2011 at 12:53 pm |
    • Elan

      As a Jewish person, I will definitely vote for the Republican candidate in the 2012 election.

      September 14, 2011 at 1:23 pm |
  15. grist

    It is just crazy to think that the orthodox community in this district in any way represents Jewish voters. A miniscule proportion of Jews are orthodox. I am upset that this community is so critical of Obama for being more even handed in terms of the middle east. It is an approach that is much more likely to result in peace. The old way, of supporting Israel no matter what, has not worked. If peace is not achieved soon, Israel will find itself in the position of having to decide if it is a democratic state. This is because with time, Palestinians will outnumber Jews in Israel. Then it would become a Palestinian state. Israel has to choose peace soon.

    September 14, 2011 at 12:50 pm |
  16. hmnd

    Israel doesn't want an honest broker in US or anyone else for that matter. Neither do the Jewish leaders in US. Israel wants biased support by claiming volnurability and danger against its people so it can keep receiving enormous $$$ from US and Europe. As result, the violence and the back-and-forth will continue forever. Sad.

    September 14, 2011 at 12:49 pm |
  17. cbr

    These elections do not translate into any trends. Maybe Jewish voters tended to vote Democratic but that may be because the candidates represented what they are thinking. Others drift to the Republican party for the same reason. One district does not translate into a national election. It is an unfortunate conclusion about how Jews think.

    Unfortunately, it is not statements but actions that cause voters to move one way or the other. I am disappointed that this correspondent thinks that because a man stands with an Israeli flag and American flag that he gave reassurances on the topic of Israel. This candidate is appealing to certain sects for their votes and they responded. By writing this article the reporter is dissecting the vote into Jews against Obama and also that all Jews are stepping out of some little box. Would the reporter decide that other candidates win elections because of their race, creed, or religion? He mentions Scott who was elected because the Democratic opponent barely waged a campaign and was not a popular candidate at all.

    The fact is that this one representative will have a hard time delivering. Both parties have those who do not follow the party line but are independent thinkers. There are also different caucuses representing different groups. I have nto heard tha their is a pro or anti caucus about Israel.

    September 14, 2011 at 12:48 pm |
  18. Enlightened4

    The Democrats have so abused the great Trust between America and Israel, that it is logical that Jewish people would awaken to who their friends are. Obama read Psalms 46 on 9/11. It was written by King David, King of the Jewish people from Jerusalem, the city appointed to them by Almighty God in the midst of Israel, the country He gave them for all of time. The God of Jacob whose name is Israel, speaks through the Psalmist to His people, the Jewish people. Now, obviously Obama is not studied in the WORD of GOD because all of his actions speak to the contrary. If he knew of what he read, he would not have read it, you can be sure. God chose the Jewish people to be His people. Argue with Him if you don't like it because He is the one who chose. I, and many Christian conservatives (GOP), honor God by honoring His chosen people. We believe God when He said, Bless Israel and you will be blessed; curse and you will be cursed. God is not out golfing and not paying attention to what we choose. No harm to the Arabs/Palestinians intended, they just need to understand that Israel belongs to the Jewish people and they need to let Israel live in Peace.

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

      No rational being can stand and watch in silence the tiny nation of Israel be bullied by its oppressors.

      To Israel we say, we stand with you and Pray for Peace in Israel!

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

      No rational being would ever protect a bullied person who then accused their protector of being bullied. Israel has become confused about who is protecting who. Maybe if they get punched around a bit, the situation will resolve itself with a little more clarity.

      September 14, 2011 at 12:52 pm |
    • Courageous

      O Israel!

      The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is with you!

      September 14, 2011 at 12:53 pm |
    • Busted

      Right and Israel has been caught spying on US military how many times? I'm sick and tired of these non-Americans putting the interests of some foreign nation ahead of the interests of the United States. Leave this country if its interests aren't your top priorities

      September 14, 2011 at 12:55 pm |
    • Zach Canada

      wow.. you just said a mouthful ... of crap...

      it's looking at the situation in the light of what god may or may not have said that has caused all the issues in the first place. As a Jew i think it's important for Israel and Palestine to understand the only way to peace is a two state solution. Jerusalem *which is the only thing neither side could agree on at the Camp David summit under Clinton* should be labeled an international city ... end of story.

      September 14, 2011 at 12:56 pm |
    • Courageous

      We stand with you Israel! Be Courageous and God is with you!

      September 14, 2011 at 1:02 pm |
    • observe

      As a Jewish conservative, married to an Israeli, I find it laughable that anyone agrees with Obama's views for Israel. All of you need to get a first hand look from someone who's from Israel before making your idiodic comments.

      September 14, 2011 at 1:13 pm |
  19. 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...it really looked like this guy had more bite than bark...he is the same as the republicans.....castrated politically and run by special interest groups.....

    September 14, 2011 at 12:47 pm |
  20. jellylee2020

    I don't think it's just the Jewish people. Many people are not happy with the economy and the job market in the US. Don't get me wrong, I'm a Democrat leaning independent voter who voted for Obama and encouraged everyone in my family to vote for him as well but his lack luster performance thus far worries me.

    September 14, 2011 at 12:43 pm |
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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.