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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."

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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. dscon

    now there is a reason to vote for romney............
    he puts iran on notice AND supports isreal.
    obama puts isreal on notice and does the "zero" on iran.
    obama uses force on egypt and libya and the "zero" on syria.
    obama has an economic policy that is just as "foriegn"
    as HIS foriegn policy.

    July 29, 2012 at 1:29 pm |
  2. Jack

    First off Romney, the american people can't afford another war so stop trying to write rubber checks with our tax $$s and risk the lives of thousands of Americans for political gain. Second Obama, seriously 70 million? Our schools need money, our citizens need jobs, we have a huge drought and food prices are rising, WTH are you doing giving our tax $$s away?

    July 29, 2012 at 1:27 pm |
  3. Nilkinggary

    He wants to win votes by encouraging another war in the Middle East? Sheesh!

    July 29, 2012 at 1:26 pm |
  4. AZ Wildcat

    A Republican talking about starting another war, who would have thought... We still have a $7.2T bill from the last two wars you right wing loonies started.

    July 29, 2012 at 1:21 pm |
    • Lurker

      Dont worry, IF the republicans win the white house, the economy will be fixed in like a month, there will be no more deficit

      July 29, 2012 at 1:42 pm |
  5. Will

    I'm voting for President of the United States, not Shabbos Goy of Israel. Obama has my vote.

    July 29, 2012 at 1:14 pm |
  6. ANGELA

    you already lost my vote if you put our country to war again....no matter whom...

    July 29, 2012 at 1:07 pm |
  7. Jake

    There he goes...putting you already on notice that as President, war with Iran is coming. This guy will pander to anyone and anything. The same coward who fled to France is all ready to send other people's kids and grandchildren to die in wars abroad. Nothing learned from GWB and the 5000 American soldiers who died over lies. Republicans are nothing but war mongers always ready to have others die for them. Their kids and grandchildren...NEVER.

    July 29, 2012 at 1:06 pm |
    • gordyb

      It's what they (GOP) do. War and Taxes. Except we don't have anymore money left to spend on war since W spent it all on Iraq. I think we need a War surtax before we engage in anymore wars. The GOP should be for that ? Pay up front so to speak. Nah, thats a tax and they have all pledged to their god Grover N.

      July 29, 2012 at 1:11 pm |
  8. Volsocal

    Nice distorted picture of Governor Romney on the front page, CNN. Is there any limit to your bias?

    July 29, 2012 at 1:05 pm |
    • Will

      If the wanted to be accurate they'd photoshop Romney's face on a shltlog and use that

      July 29, 2012 at 1:16 pm |
  9. Pete/Ark

    odd...with 3 stories about Romneys trip and associated statements, CNN has cut off comments on 2 of them.....

    July 29, 2012 at 1:04 pm |
  10. joe

    "Whoa, Dude! You just touched off Armageddon! I totally RESPECT that!!!! Never mind that blowing up the region will drive up the price of oil and end up wrecking our economy and set back mid-east diplomacy for fifty years, I really really RESPECT your insane irresponsible actions."

    July 29, 2012 at 1:02 pm |
  11. laserman59

    Mitt Romney – candidate for President – Lackey for Israel
    Anyone who places Israel's interests above US interests should NOT be President of The US.

    July 29, 2012 at 1:02 pm |
  12. harry

    Here we go again...lets face it no US politician has the guts to face reality today. They are Israel puppets and will remains so. Us is run by remote control from Israel. All wars will stop if the US becomes a true broker of peace and not take sides. But blind and unconditional support for Israel has done nothing but created enemies and we say why do they hate us? Do we really need to ask that question.

    Wake up America and do what is right for America and not for some other country.

    July 29, 2012 at 1:00 pm |
  13. NoWarForIsrael

    Do your research on Israel. They are the biggest terrorists threat the world faces. Contact your congressman NOW.

    July 29, 2012 at 1:00 pm |
  14. NoWarForIsrael

    Israel needs to be stopped. They've hijacked our government.

    July 29, 2012 at 12:58 pm |
  15. southernwonder

    romney raised about one million in israel in a fund raiser at king david hotel. this is the first time ever a presidential candidate has done so abroad. this is indeed shameful. this is reason enough to reject romeny. i hope he loses big time only to underscore that raising money abroad is not "kosher". he might as well be running for an office in israel.

    July 29, 2012 at 12:57 pm |
  16. REG in AZ

    Romney goes to Europe and promises to support big banks and financial corps interests for their support then he goes to Israel and promises to support them if they attack Iran for the Jewish support. Not to get into the argument over those questionable commitments, let's just ask, where is there any real concern for the people as he just totally and continually sells out to "the money"?

    July 29, 2012 at 12:57 pm |
  17. james

    No one will bring bombs to Tel Aviv (and other Israeli cities) quicker than Romney.

    July 29, 2012 at 12:57 pm |
  18. SoFunny

    Mitt the Twitt, wake up Christians, before tis too late:

    LDS Article 1: “We believe in God, the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost.”
    “Mormons do not believe in the Trinity as we understand it. They believe that God and Jesus were separate physical people” who dwelled on the earth, Johnston said. God was Jesus’ father, and both men died.
    “They do have a ‘Holy Ghost’ that is very similar to our understanding of the Holy Spirit,” Johnston said."

    SEE, THEY BELIEVE GOD WAS A MAN, AND DIED, and wasn't around from the time of Christ until Joseph Smith.!!
    Christians wake up, Romney or any other mormon is not your candidate.

    July 29, 2012 at 12:56 pm |
  19. NoWarForIsrael

    Israel is a leech to our government and our country. They are sucking our resources dry and trying to sacrifice our son's and daughter's lives in the process.

    July 29, 2012 at 12:55 pm |
  20. NoWarForIsrael

    WAR MONGER

    July 29, 2012 at 12:55 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.