July 27th, 2012
10:33 PM ET

What's at stake for Romney in Israel

By Tom Foreman and Eric Marrapodi, CNN

(CNN)—Mitt Romney will be glad handing and photo opping in Israel until Monday during the second leg of the presumptive GOP nominee's international campaign trip.

It is unmistakably aimed, in part, at a traditional Democratic voting bloc: Jewish Americans who are politically active in fundraising, campaigning and voting.

"I think Mitt Romney is going to Israel certainly to court the Jewish vote," said Randall Balmer, the chairman of the religion department at Dartmouth College and author of "God in the White House."

"It's definitely sending a message that Israel is important for Romney, that he, he has warm feelings about Israel, that he cares about Israel," said Nathan Guttman, a Washington correspondent for the Jewish Daily Forward. "It's sort of important for this kind of a Jewish electorate. But again, we should keep in mind that this is the minority of Jewish voters."

He added, "Most of them are Obama voters to start with; they won't be swayed by it; they don't really care much."

But Romney may have an even larger voting bloc in mind during his trip.

"The constituency he wants to impress is the evangelicals, people who have an unequivocal support for Israel," Balmer said. "This is the constituency that was quite suspicious of him in the course of the primaries, and in may ways he hasn't fully won them over."

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Meanwhile, President Obama appears to be trying to undercut the impact of the visit with either faction of the Jewish vote.

The White House released another $70-million in military aid for Israel on Friday, saying it underlines the president's "unshakeable commitment" to that American ally.

Much has been made over perceived chilly relations between the Obama administration and the current administration in Israel.

The president won the vast majority of votes by Jewish Americans in 2008. A recent Gallup Daily tracking poll showed registered Jewish voters preferred Obama 68% to 25% over Romney.

Several conservative activists have told CNN that Romney's trip to Israel is an important step in trying to strengthen his support among evangelicals and conservatives. The activists say that the trip will help reassure them about the former governor of Massachusetts.

Romney has struggled to win over many social conservatives who felt that his past positions on social issues were too liberal and many evangelicals who raised theological concerns over Romney's membership in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

Countless Christian evangelicals are indeed staunch supporters of Israel, citing a Biblical kinship with the Jewish nation.

Their interest in Israel's well-being has motivated a number of Republican contenders to visit the Holy Land and speak out for Israeli rights.

One key group is Christians United for Israel, which has more than a million members and politically conservative leaders who have expressed disappointment over Obama's sometimes tense relationship with Israel.

"American Christians, Americans in general, are going to want to see Governor Romney treat Israel and treat Prime Minister Netanyahu with a respect and an appreciation," said Christian United for Israel's Executive Director David Brog. "Many of us feel (that respect) has not been present, has been lacking in the current administration."

"Unlike other issues, this issue is still in play," Brog continued. "When it comes to the issue of foreign policy, and when it come to the issue of how a president will deal with our ally Israel and our struggle with radical Islam, people are still waiting for information, minds are still open. And this is where governor can influence voters and pick up significant support."

Some Christians, known as Christian Zionists, believe that the Jews' return to Israel, which became a Jewish state in 1948, is a sign of the approaching Rapture, when the righteous will ascend to heaven while others are left behind.

Background: Mideast action at U.N. casts spotlight on Christian Zionism

The Rapture, many evangelicals believe, will usher in an apocalyptic period that will culminate in Jesus' return. Some Christians believe that keeping Israel in Jewish hands will help expedite that scenario.

Activists, academics and religious believers disagree about how such apocalyptic thinking may affect Christian support for Israel.

Many other Christians and Jews see such a scenario as a radical interpretation of scripture. Brog dismisses the notion that theology about the end times could boost support of Israel. "This is simply one of those urban myths," he said.

Still, it all raises the stakes on Romney's Israeli visit; making it clear this trip will be closely watched by American voters on both the left and the right.

CNN's Dan Gilgoff and Kevin Bohn contributed to this report.

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Filed under: Belief • Christianity • Israel • Judaism • TV-The Situation Room

soundoff (761 Responses)
  1. Lenny Pincus

    I hear God is trying to avoid evangelicals. He has definitely stopped answering the phone.

    July 28, 2012 at 11:35 pm |
  2. Lenny Pincus

    Mitt needs to keep his pants from falling past his knees. He should also avoid asking where the good chop houses are.

    July 28, 2012 at 11:31 pm |
  3. G

    If Mitt is all the republicans have to offer....They are in big Trouble.

    July 28, 2012 at 11:29 pm |
  4. kamereon

    Romney is wrong for America just as much as America's servitude to israel is wrong. He should stay over there.

    July 28, 2012 at 11:21 pm |
  5. Fernando de Pena

    Honk 1000 times if you love San Diego,texas

    July 28, 2012 at 11:20 pm |
  6. Oh no he dihent

    contrary to what many are saying in the various blogs across the web, Romney did not go to the West Bank to make a deposit. He specifiically stated that he didnt have an account, and they wouldnt allow him to open one.

    July 28, 2012 at 11:20 pm |
  7. obama should have been in israel 3 yrs ago....

    why? unshakeablue ally as he calls it? he was next door in egypt,next door in turkey, next door in riyahd....he ought to have been to israel ....why he hasnt is really I believe the best sign of how he sees israel....if they were such a wonderful ally in his mind, he would have gone. period. If it werent for congress twisting his arm, he wouldnt fund iron dome and he wouldn't need to fake his interest....his treatment of israel in order to try to appease the muslim street has been to be frank, useless and actually, counterproductive. He let his PERSONAL feelings about israel trump geopolitical priorotes and that is really dangerous...it just shows how ideological he is....all you have to do is know who his past closest friends were....it says it all.

    July 28, 2012 at 11:16 pm |
  8. Fernando de Pena

    There are 50million Latinos living in the u.s mas o memos. Maybe Romi should visit ole Mexico!

    July 28, 2012 at 11:15 pm |
    • Erik in Houston

      Can't do that – his polygamous family roots would be at issue. Besides, Mexicans aren't within his echelon from his perspective. He won't be elected, thankfully.

      July 28, 2012 at 11:21 pm |
  9. The Dude

    The one rule I live by:

    Trust nothing with Patriot, Christian or Freedom in its name.

    July 28, 2012 at 11:15 pm |
  10. Freedomluchador

    We are investing on a country that brings us head aces instead on investing in our future as a country! He should get investigated if he received a dime from the Israelis! But in second thought it is our money! America FIRST if you dont like it move to Israel!

    July 28, 2012 at 11:13 pm |
  11. Naomi

    Independently who support israel it´s doesn´t changes the biblical fact that Jesus return is at hand, God will accomplish his word written thousand of year ago and that signals the present time as unique in human history and His intervention is powerfully without human help.

    July 28, 2012 at 11:10 pm |
    • The Dude

      Every generation of Christian death cult followers has been saying this for 2000 years. Shut up already.....

      July 28, 2012 at 11:13 pm |
  12. Fernando de Pena

    There are 50millions plusorminus Spanish speaking people living in the u.s. maybe he should visit mexico

    July 28, 2012 at 11:10 pm |
    • Freedomluchador

      You are right He should visit Mexico. Mexico buys 250 billion worth of American products goods and services every year. Israel cost us Billions a year!

      July 28, 2012 at 11:16 pm |
  13. The Dude

    Christianity is nothing more than a death cult.


    July 28, 2012 at 11:10 pm |
  14. Minoan Prince

    Two of the most nauseating things about American politicians are their talking all the time about their religious faith, and trying to buy Jewish votes by saying how much they are supporting Israel; something that is not really necessary since the USA the last half century has been giving to Israel on the average ten million dollars per day.

    July 28, 2012 at 11:10 pm |
    • pprty

      Yes, and Israel has it's hand out taking it!

      July 29, 2012 at 1:22 am |
  15. Georgia Wright

    Christianity is a personal experience between an individual and God, and evangelists should not dictate to the world what and who God has in mind for his people here on earth. Interpretation is personal and those who run religeon with their big money and calls it Christianity is wrong. No one has been to heaven and back, what you speak as God truth is persons opinion and may be not what God had in mind. Let us embrace all God's people and accept humankind as God made us.

    July 28, 2012 at 11:04 pm |
    • g2Z

      Well said

      July 28, 2012 at 11:38 pm |
  16. Freedomluchador

    Romney is a TRAITOR! How the hell is he going to another country to get their approval! God save us if this KKKult leather get in to power!

    July 28, 2012 at 11:03 pm |
  17. abbydelabbey

    When one of your top donors ($10 million's worth) is Adelson who has a very specific agenda you bet this is an important trip. Romney has to "repay" his benefactor one way or another and doing what Adelson wants is no doubt part of the payment....

    FYI: billionaire Sheldon Adelson has long been seen as a powerful force in Israel’s body politic. He’s the owner of Israel’s largest daily newspaper and so close to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that he sat in the front row of the Knesset’s VIP section for Netanyahu’s 2009 electoral victory appearance.

    ;nuff said?

    July 28, 2012 at 10:50 pm |
    • ohreally

      Adelson's only concern is to get a new Justice Department in place, before they try him on foreign corruptions act. He bribed his way into his overseas casino and he got caught.

      July 28, 2012 at 10:55 pm |
    • paul

      Mitt changing his name to his new daddy's last name – Mitt Adelson

      July 28, 2012 at 11:30 pm |
  18. pprty

    The only reason that Jewish people would vote for Romney would be if they thought they would get more money from Romney.

    July 28, 2012 at 10:46 pm |
  19. bugmetoo

    Maybe I overlooked it. Did you mention Obama has never gone to Israel?

    July 28, 2012 at 10:38 pm |
    • Merle Morrigan

      Obama in Israel, July 23 2008.

      July 29, 2012 at 12:08 am |
  20. beevee

    This guy Romney is a panderer. He will stoop to anything to get elected. So far I have not heard anything concrete from Romney about how would improve the economy of the country other than constantly criticizing the president as having not been able to improved the economy. People like him are looking at the economy throgh a smoked glass. The jewish people in the US know it well.

    July 28, 2012 at 10:32 pm |
    • bugmetoo

      If you haven't heard his ideas your not listening. Just another Obama sheep.

      July 28, 2012 at 10:41 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.