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. Ivan Biial

    How dare a candidate make policy statements involving a foreign government.
    It's unheard of, its detrimental to our country.
    Again Romney has provided another reason he is not up to the job.

    July 29, 2012 at 11:03 am |
    • Nietodarwin

      How dare he indeed!!!!!!! I totally agree. This is the WORST candidate in the history of American Politics. All of the sane republicans need to get off their butts and fix their party, and from the comments on here, there are plenty who ARE still republican but will not vote for him.
      THIS IS WORSE THAN ROMNEY EMBARRASSING US IN ENGLAND. ROMNEY HOLDS NO OFFICE, AND HAS NO BUSINESS MAKING ANY COMMENT AT ALL ON US POLICY. Are we going to send Ted Nugent to talk with an Asian country next? Why don't we send Rush Limbaugh to Africa to state American Policy? (He is the party's spokesman, but is NOT a representative of our government.) You sane (probably former) republicans need to DO something about your crazy party. I've always been a democrat. It's YOUR DAMN MESS, CLEAN IT UP.

      July 29, 2012 at 11:12 am |
  2. Missy

    After his disaster in London, I think Mr. Romney will say anything. The Evangelicals were sold on the late Ronald Reagan, believing that with his election, abortion would be outlawed, the Dept. of Education would be dismantled etc. Did any of that happen? No! As the song goes, "When will they ever learn?"
    Obama/Biden 20112.

    July 29, 2012 at 11:02 am |
  3. Rob

    Nothing better than courting right wing religious fanatics for political gain.

    July 29, 2012 at 11:01 am |
  4. lib

    I find it hard to believe that ANYBODFY will vote for Mitt Romney especially after this trip!

    July 29, 2012 at 11:00 am |
  5. sybaris

    Watch out kids.... Mormonism is Judaism-lite, Romney will cozy right up to Israel and have us in another war if he is POTUS

    July 29, 2012 at 10:56 am |
  6. Robyn

    Mr. Romney is already signing unlimited commitments for new wars.
    Before we have managed to end the wars the last Republican bungled so badly.
    More Trillions of dollars thrown away and thousands of dead and maimed American soldiers.

    But the weapons makers who bankroll Mr. Romney will turn ungodly profits, so it receives his seal of approval.

    July 29, 2012 at 10:54 am |
  7. Thomas Machuca Calderon

    Bishop Mitt of the LDS and the Jewish People have nothing in comment. The Jewish People have a country and the LDS are fake people.

    July 29, 2012 at 10:48 am |
  8. dan

    Romney has apparently just said that he would support Israel if it went to war with Iran – which means we would have to bail out Israel and go to war also. He is going bankrupt us, and more of our soldiers will get killed when Iran is not at war with us. In fact, idiot Ahmadenajad is on his way out. Many Iranians are not anti-America, why kill them, or make them weak when the Iranian fanatics will become more powerful if we attack. We need to disengage from Israel, not get more into bed with them. Israel is following policies of moving away from democracy into becoming a fanatical religious state like the others in the ME, and we should not be funding this. Many countries legitimately do not like Israel because of its abuse and coercion of an occupied people, whose land it is taking. When we asked Israel to stop the settlements, it just thumbed its nose at us and went on building. Until they have the political will to resolve the Occupation we lose major political capital by our knee jerk support of them. Romney's actions are a perfect example of our politicians kowtowing to Israel. Why is another country so powerful in vetting our politicians and our foreign policy. Something is wrong here. No to more wars, and Mr. Romney please have the guts to stand up to the Israel lobby and let us have a more normal relationship with Israel, as we do with other countries.

    July 29, 2012 at 10:44 am |
    • nate

      Dan, you're right. Israel should bow down to whatever the world and or US says. That's right the Jews should give back every square inch of occupied land. While we're at it, how about the US gives back all of that occupied land to the Native Americans, and give back half of the Western States to Mexico. Maybe we should give back all modern day countries to their previous tenants. Where do you draw the line? In 1948 outnumbered and outgunned, a bunch of Jewish farmers kicked some Palestinian, I mean egyptian and Jordanian, ass and in 67 and 73 as well. Now those Jews should have kicked out those Egyptians and Jordanians, as they would have done much worse to us, but because we didn't those Arabs are still a pain to this day. What happened to the days when America ALWAYS stood up for what is right in the world instead of kissing Arab behind for oil.

      Dan you complain about$$. Barack Hussein has outspent every former president combined. Wake up.

      July 29, 2012 at 11:19 am |
  9. Dan Mathis

    "You cannot help the poor by destroying the rich.

    You cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong.

    You cannot bring about prosperity by discouraging thrift.

    You cannot lift the wage earner up by pulling the wage payer down.

    You cannot further the brotherhood of man by inciting class hatred.

    You cannot build character and courage by taking away men's initiative and independence.

    You cannot help men permanently by doing for them, what they could and should do for themselves."

    — Abraham Lincoln
    I want someone to run who will tell the truth. We can get out of this mess if we do it together. Be realistic you can't cut taxes and pay your bills. They try to make everyone happy to get votes then turn around and only help a chosen few .

    July 29, 2012 at 10:39 am |
    • communicator1453

      This doesn't sound like something Abraham Lincoln would have said. What is your source for this quote?

      July 29, 2012 at 10:49 am |
    • communicator1453

      The "inciting class hatred" part really bothers me. I don't believe that sounds anything like a late-19th Century phrase. It sounds much more like a late 20th-century ideology.

      July 29, 2012 at 10:51 am |
    • sybaris

      Dan – I got that same email too and it has been thoroughly debunked by credible sources

      Please do some research before you regurgitate urban legends

      July 29, 2012 at 10:54 am |
  10. YoursIsNoDisgrace

    Any Jew that allies themselves with evangelicals is a traitor. As we know, they, the evangelicals, will support Israel to the last Jew.

    July 29, 2012 at 10:37 am |
  11. Bhawk

    With the tough talk on Iran why does Iran need to wait on attacking Israel and vice versa. He is not dealing with Unions he dealling with nations who have nukes and large armies. This has no clues on dealing with people.

    July 29, 2012 at 10:35 am |
  12. dav

    Romney =support for Israel and freedom
    obama =support for Iran and controlling governments
    Bye comrade obama Nov 2012

    July 29, 2012 at 10:30 am |
  13. Dot

    Exactly what does former Gov. Romney offer Americans? I listen carefully and all I hear are attacks on President Obama. Even I can badmouth someone else. It takes someone of Presidential stature to actually have a plan of what we can expect of him, should we vote for him. Since he has not shared the plan with us, either he has no plan or he does not trust us with his plan.

    July 29, 2012 at 10:18 am |
  14. OrginalPhantom

    Finally a presidential candidate that just goes ahead and campaigns in the 51st state. Israeli citizens are better represented in DC than the average American.

    July 29, 2012 at 10:00 am |
    • Johnnyme

      The only advanced, progressive, real democracy in the Mideast should be supported by the rest of the world. Israel is the country that has to face the threat from many Islamic extremists who are ready to destroy ALL Western World life, and deny any other other people's and/or religion's right to exist.
      If any of us thinks that Iran is a danger now, just wait and see what a hellish world we'll experience if the current Iranian Islamofascist regime acquire 'nuclear capability'.

      July 29, 2012 at 10:21 am |
    • dav

      comrade obama is for Communism and Iran

      July 29, 2012 at 10:32 am |
  15. BlogMediator

    Promise them everything but deliver unto them NOTHING! Israel has received too much aid from the US and we have shed too much American blood for their delusional hate campaign against their Arab neighbors. Let them spill their own children's blood if they want to go to war with Iran! They really are NOT God's choosen people!

    July 29, 2012 at 9:49 am |
    • Johnnyme

      Iranian Islamofascist leaders' view of FORCING Islam onto all of us, AFTER they precipitate Nuclear WW III, will certainly be FAR WORSE for all of us!
      Research and learn what the Iranian ayatollahs INTEND to do to this naive world!

      July 29, 2012 at 9:59 am |
  16. llatpoh

    "Don't worry Putin, I will have much more flexibility after my re-election" - Obama
    "Entreprenuers – you're not smarter and it doesn't matter that you worked hard – you owe your success to the gov't (but you can own your losses)" - Obama
    "The Ft Hood Massacre is officially categorized as "workplace violence" - Obama Administration
    We have had enough – O is one and done.
    Romney 2012!

    July 29, 2012 at 9:47 am |
    • Sacmar

      Where are you getting all this from? Please provide your sources.

      July 29, 2012 at 9:55 am |
    • cw

      He has none... He has simply twisted words around and attributed them to Obama. Disingenuous at best. Outright lie at worst. Wonder what color the sky is in his world.

      July 29, 2012 at 10:17 am |
    • llatpoh

      All facts readily available from public sources. Try Google. You need to read more than Obama News Network.

      July 29, 2012 at 10:57 am |
  17. BeAware

    I like to monitor all sides of the spectrum. it has been over two weeks, and I have not seen one mention on CNN website refering to "You didnt build that" comment?. A one sided debate, makes you no better than FNC.

    July 29, 2012 at 9:45 am |
    • Sacmar

      That cooment wasn't true. You need to go to YouTube and look it up. That's not what Obama said. Romney is just editing that speech.

      July 29, 2012 at 9:53 am |
    • Sacmar

      I meant 'comment'.

      July 29, 2012 at 9:54 am |
    • LiberaLIowan

      CNN would put that comment in context, so you wouldn't like it anyway.

      July 29, 2012 at 9:54 am |
  18. Willie

    That would be your friends on the right with General Palin and Rupert Murdoch at the helm.

    July 29, 2012 at 9:45 am |
  19. Rhonda Rahn

    McCain saw Romney's taxes and thought Palin was safer. LOL

    Plus, if Romney insults our friends (UK), what would he say to our enemies? GOP = wars

    Obama found Osama Bin Laden, which the GOP never could do.

    So yes, I vote Obama.

    July 29, 2012 at 9:39 am |
    • Debby

      McCain picked Palin because she was a woman and thought he could get the Hillary people on board with this. It had nothing to do with Romney's tax returns.

      Romney told the truth in the UK if the Brits don't like it to bad. They have been down on Americans many times no big deal.

      Bush's waterboarding implimented the capture of Bin Laden, and most of the powers to be that were involved in the capture were under the Bush administration.

      Our economy in shambles, we are debt up to our ears, Obama hasn't done a thing for the middle class he could have vetoed the Bush tax cuts out in his 3 years of office but he didn't because he doesn't have a plan himself so yes by all means vote Obama back in. Obama has used every possible Bush tactic in the last 3 years.

      July 29, 2012 at 10:06 am |
    • cw

      Debby... It is an absolute fabrication of the truth to say that water boarding got Osama... Do you enjoy making things up and passing then of as truth?

      July 29, 2012 at 10:21 am |
  20. James

    I can't believe we still have Americans alive that support Barrack Obama. Are you people blind AND deaf? Have you not seen and heard what he has done to this country and what he plans to do? Can you imagine what he will do when he does not have to worry about being reelected? He is going to bankrupt us and he is going to put us in a modern-day civil war. It's going to be a new civil war and I have news for you.... The rich people have bigger and more guns. I am a lower income person and I'm telling you we are going to lose if Obama is reelected.

    July 29, 2012 at 9:27 am |
    • Mr RickinNH

      U should definitely try the indica variety!... there is much less paranoia involved!!

      July 29, 2012 at 9:33 am |
    • Um...no

      Seriously man...you need to stop watching Fox News. Oh wait...that last part where you say you are "lower income" and yet you want everyone to vote for Romney...yep...you're a paid hack, a troll...or most likely just a complete fool.

      July 29, 2012 at 9:35 am |
    • llatpoh

      Totally agree with you... Obama has been a disaster – four more years of O will have horrific consequences...
      I voted for him in 2008 – a decision that I deeply regret.
      Obama "I have much more flexibility after my relection... to Putin" has GOT to GO...

      July 29, 2012 at 9:40 am |
    • Rhonda Rahn

      James, you said "the rich people have bigger and more guns." And that is supposed to be in favor of the GOP? I can imagine GOP'ers going to movies.

      July 29, 2012 at 9:41 am |
    • Sacmar

      You're lower income and want a Republican in office?! You do know they want to let the tax breaks for the middle and lower class to expire and extend them for the top 2%, right? There was an article about it just last week. The 98% are going to get screwed if Romney gets in. The Republicans don't care about us at all. They're more concerned with protecting their money. The rich get richer and the poor get poorer.

      July 29, 2012 at 9:47 am |
    • i_know_everything

      not blind and deaf, we can think

      July 29, 2012 at 9:48 am |
    • DarqueSide

      Your comments paint you as a paranoid, which hardly makes for a persuasive argument.

      July 29, 2012 at 10:02 am |
    • Rob

      Bla bla bla .... Do us all a big favor go suk a 12 gauge.

      July 29, 2012 at 10:31 am |
    • lib

      I can't believe people alive want to vote for Romney since he is talking about getting us all killed. A war monger.

      July 29, 2012 at 10:59 am |
    • Mary

      Yes ! Amen..... we are on the path to fall.

      July 29, 2012 at 11:15 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.