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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."

CNN's Belief Blog: The faith angles behind the big stories

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. MaryM

    Beware Isreal, There is a new "W" in town and his name is Willard

    July 29, 2012 at 2:24 am |
  2. JohnK

    The Mossad has orders to take Romney out when he visits the wailing wall and shouts to the masses assembled for Prime Minister Netanayu to "Tear Down That Wall".

    July 29, 2012 at 2:01 am |
  3. KEVIN

    I like how the video says that there is this massive population of Christians who fervently want the Jews to control Israel. BS. BS. BS

    July 29, 2012 at 1:53 am |
  4. ...

    One pirson has an imaginary frend he's calld crazy. another pirson beleves him and its now religion...

    July 29, 2012 at 1:42 am |
  5. KEVIN

    Israel truly is a pain in the a** for 99% of the American public. But we have adopted them as basically a 51st State. (there are very real reasons why we ALL need this). If many Americans could have their way, we would just move Israel onto the American continent. The ME is a sewer and the cultures and religions there will fight and kill each other for Israel's land even if Israel moves. The majority of the population and TRUE MILITARY POWER in the US could easily extinct Israel's niehbors and the ME and just split the land up btw. us and Russia and China (this is a fact-Russia and China would buy int this). No more problems in the ME

    July 29, 2012 at 1:21 am |
  6. Randy Johnson

    Oh great – our wonderful self elected new President is now going to Israel to screw up like he did in London. My advise would be for him to shut up and let his wife do the talking – she obviously wears the pants (and special underpants) in the family.

    July 29, 2012 at 1:10 am |
    • KEVIN

      Randy, this is going to be absolutely fascinating on how this goes with Romney in Israel. Unfortunately it will all be very superficial and no one will make any political or even specific statements. Romney will just say he supports Israel. I guess we will just have to read body language.

      July 29, 2012 at 1:41 am |
    • heknowsitall

      Some screw up. 10 lefty bloggers upset. Boo hoo. In case you haven't noticed princess King Obama doesn't have to go anywhere to screw up. He is the biggest fraud and screw up in modern political history. Gee elect a communist and things don't go well. Imagine that...

      July 29, 2012 at 2:24 am |
  7. Pam

    How can billy graham support anything? He is dead!!!!

    July 29, 2012 at 1:02 am |
    • John P

      Not yet. 93

      July 29, 2012 at 1:18 am |
    • Satan

      He has been dead on the inside for decades.

      July 29, 2012 at 1:24 am |
  8. nolimits3333

    Romney represents capital's desire for the higher returns through cheaper labor costs.

    Capital does not care about externalities like patriotism or morality; if it can get higher returns stabbing the American worker in the back in favor of sweatshop labor, than so be it.

    The point of Bain Capital is to destroy American jobs in order to get higher returns for investors who benefit by cheapest labor costs.

    July 29, 2012 at 12:32 am |
    • heknowsitall

      so he's in Isreal to get cheap labor? LOL Here's a fact for you Princess there are 5mm people in the US who no longer count as unemployed. These folks have been the victims of Obama and the left's economic genocide as you geniuses talk about "Fairness" and "living wages" and "sustainable living".

      July 29, 2012 at 2:26 am |
  9. KEVIN

    England is going to nuke Israel if they are nice to Romney. (why do you think Obama is giving Israel more military arms)

    July 29, 2012 at 12:26 am |
  10. countertrans

    what is odd about a mormon going to the jews to become the leader of a christian nation? everything.

    July 29, 2012 at 12:25 am |
    • KEVIN

      countertrans, when did religion become an issue in the ME?

      July 29, 2012 at 12:28 am |
    • obama2012

      Haha

      July 29, 2012 at 2:17 am |
    • heknowsitall

      weirder still is thinking that electing a Communist with no work experience to be President of the US or a Communist to be the "Green Jobs Czar" (Van Jones) or White House Communication people who say that the greatest mass murderer of the past century Mao is her "political inspiration"...NOw that's weird.

      July 29, 2012 at 2:28 am |
  11. TruthBeTold

    Let me see if I understand this......
    A US presidential candidate is going to a foreign country to solicit votes for a US election??
    Am I the only one that finds that whole concept odd??

    I guess Romney/Obama should be visiting Mexico soon to curry the Hispanic vote in the US...right?

    Riiiiiggghhht!!

    July 29, 2012 at 12:23 am |
    • KEVIN

      Truth, Even though Jews are a very small minority in America, there are some VERY, VERY POWERFUL (political and economic) Jews here in the US who will do anything to support Israel. I'm not being anti-semetic. This is a fact. Jews ARE NOT bad people. They are super intelligent and all of us owe our high standard of living to them (Doctors, Lawyers, Financial consultants, Scientists, Empathetic and Fair Judges and politicians, Small and large bussinesses, Social Service Creators and Directors. They truly are caring people, but they have some propensity for weaknesses as do EVERY other ethnicity (i.e. many Irish tend to drink too much ect. ect.)

      July 29, 2012 at 12:43 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      I'm waiting for you to say "Some of my best friends are Jews."

      What a load of manure.

      July 29, 2012 at 12:46 am |
    • Fab

      Tom... that was hysterical !! lmao

      July 29, 2012 at 12:54 am |
    • heknowsitall

      First, much of Obama's fund raising efforts since nobody is giving him the greenbacks here is abroad. Second, Israel is an ally that has been thrown under the bus as the Muslim brotherhood has been unleashed in the ME. Of course let's see giving blanket amnesty and telling border agents, "if any person you aprehend says they have a GED or went to high school in the U.S just let them go" to pander to Latino voters. etc. etc...Oh, you know what was very helpful-cancelling the XL Pipeline to pander to environmental lunatics.

      July 29, 2012 at 2:30 am |
  12. Steve

    Heck, he's just like the rest of the Politicos in DC – always Kissing Israels Azz. Must be true that the 'jews' are loaded with cash, lol

    July 29, 2012 at 12:05 am |
    • jew banklee

      its just that isreal and saudi arabia are the only ones to trust out of all those me countries

      July 29, 2012 at 3:33 am |
  13. Richard T.

    Mitt Romney looks exactly like the character "J.R. "Bob" Dobbs of the fabulous book Church of the Sub-Genius.

    July 28, 2012 at 11:54 pm |
    • heknowsitall

      Maybe you should vote for your boyfriend Tom Cruise...Romney looks and acts Presidential and dignified. He has a career of nothing but accomplishment and success. What was Obama's career again ? What did he ever do? Who did he help besides the slumlords of Chicago? Get back to me when you have some answers. Thank you.

      July 29, 2012 at 2:32 am |
  14. Russ

    Can't wait for Romney to screw up again. I don't believe he knows anything about the Jewish religion or culture.

    July 28, 2012 at 11:50 pm |
  15. elvinmerij

    Well, a lot of evangelicals are passionate about Israel because they believe in one thing: the conversion of Jews.

    If you talk to them, many will tell you that they expect Jews to convert to Christianity someday. That is the basis of their support of Israel.

    This should be a wake-up call for Israelis and American Jews who think that evangelical Christians are their "friends". Don't count on it.

    July 28, 2012 at 11:45 pm |
    • Chad

      Christians have a strong support and love for Jews primarily because Jesus Christ is Jewish.

      July 28, 2012 at 11:51 pm |
    • James Ruston

      The support of Israel by the evangelicals is also due to their belief that the "rapture," the end times, will take place in Jerusalem and they want to be there. Silly, I know, but what can one do?

      July 29, 2012 at 12:04 am |
    • John P

      Is it possible that the Israelis have a covert program to entice the American Evangelical community into thinking they are on the verge of conversion if only they could get a few more billion in economic aid and some more of those F-15s? I can't imagine that they don't at least have an informal policy of teasing Armageddon-bound Christian Americans.
      I'd let them think I could become converted for just one F-16.

      July 29, 2012 at 1:46 am |
    • heknowsitall

      you might want to learn something so you don't seem quite so foolish. In order for the Messiah to return Israel must be Jewish.

      July 29, 2012 at 2:33 am |
  16. Reality

    Dear Messrs. Obama and Romney,

    How much money would the following save the US taxpayers ?: And how many “souls” would be saved?

    Saving 1.5 billion lost Muslims:
    There never were and never will be any angels i.e. no Gabriel, no Islam and therefore no more koranic-driven acts of horror and terror LIKE 9/11.

    – One trillion dollars over the next several years as the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan will end.

    – Eighteen billion dollars/yr to Pakistan will stop.

    – Four billion dollars/yr to Egypt will end.

    Saving 2 billion lost Christians including the Mormons:
    There were never any bodily resurrections and there will never be any bodily resurrections i.e. No Easter, no Christianity!!!

    – The Mormon ti-the empire will now become taxable as will all Christian "religions" and evangelical non-profits since there is no longer any claim to being a tax-exempt religion.

    – Saving 15.5 million Orthodox followers of Judaism:
    Abraham and Moses probaby never existed.

    prob•a•bly

    Adverb: Almost certainly; as far as one knows or can tell.

    – Four billion dollars/yr to Israel saved.

    – All Jewish sects and non-profits will no longer be tax exempt.

    Now all we need to do is convince these 3.5+ billion global and local citizens that they have been conned all these centuries Time for a YouTube,Twitter and FaceBook campaign!!!!

    BOTTOM LINE: SAID SAVINGS WOULD PAY FOR UNIVERSAL HEALTH CARE !!!!
    +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

    July 28, 2012 at 11:44 pm |
    • Fab

      Who would "WE" be ? "WE" 'prob*a*bly' don't subscribe to your hate filled, (and what sounds eerily like envy) diatribe.

      July 29, 2012 at 12:51 am |
    • heknowsitall

      so your plan is to let genocide occur to the civilized and after they kill all the Jews you think the Muslims go home and become peaceful so you can have your health care? I would refer to you as a degenerate but that would insult degenerates globally and I do not wish to slander this group. Thanks for sharing ...

      July 29, 2012 at 2:35 am |
    • Reality

      How does genocide relate to saving taxpayers money?

      July 29, 2012 at 9:14 am |
    • Reality

      Added for completeness:

      • There was no Abraham i.e. the foundations of Judaism, Christianity and Islam are non-existent.

      • There was no Moses i.e the pillars of Judaism, Christianity and Islam have no strength of purpose.

      • There was no Gabriel i.e. Islam fails as a religion. Christianity partially fails.

      • There was no Easter i.e. Christianity completely fails as a religion.

      • There was no Moroni i.e. Mormonism is nothing more than a business cult.

      • Sacred/revered cows, monkey gods, castes, reincarnations and therefore Hinduism fails as a religion.

      • Fat Buddhas here, skinny Buddhas there, reincarnated Buddhas everywhere makes for a no on Buddhism.

      July 29, 2012 at 9:16 am |
  17. I'mvotingforObama

    I wonder if he is going to tell the Jews that Jesus lives on Kolob and his bro is the devil?

    July 28, 2012 at 11:36 pm |
  18. darrin OBrien

    This was written by two CNN writers. Am I the only one ? But was this hard to read and very poorly written ? Activists, Academics, and religious believers ?????? Really, which ones ???? Who are you talking about? It's no wonder Christiane Amimpore (sp) left CNN . They really need to pay for the intelligence we are missing in our news, but obviously wont.. I will be changing my home page to the BBC for now, CNM, , at best is USA today/ People Magazine. Farewell Looser format, at least we still have the Enquire "For Enquiring minds !!!!!" And we got plenty of those to fill right here in the homeland !!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    July 28, 2012 at 11:36 pm |
  19. Richard T.

    Adelson, as his chaparone, will be of help to Willard M. Romney. Besides, I am sure Adelson's Israel Newpaper will paint a pretty picture of Willard "Mittens" Robmey

    July 28, 2012 at 11:36 pm |
  20. richard

    Mitt should have left the honey baked ham sandwich at home...

    July 28, 2012 at 11:35 pm |
    • quack

      Yeah seeing as his mouth will be full of his kosher Netanyahu's little buddy while he's there, anyways...

      July 29, 2012 at 12:26 am |
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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.