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. hahahahaha

    Language from both the Nazi video Der Ewige Jude as well as the Mormon bible pretty much explains why Mitt would be considered another wandering Jew to the Israelis he is descended of Nephi In the First Book it all begins in Jerusalem at the time of King Zedekiah, where Nephi's father, Lehi, has a vision, wherein he sees God the Father, Christ, and the twelve apostles. Lehi is also made aware of the imminent Babylonian destruction of Jerusalem. Hence as a result of this experience, Lehi begins to preach repentance to his people. As with the other prophets living at that time, such as Jeremiah, they reject his teachings and attempt to kill him by stoning him

    July 28, 2012 at 2:07 pm |
  2. tony

    I bet they'll appreciate him so much, that they'll let him run as the next President of Israel. Mormon faith and all.

    July 28, 2012 at 2:05 pm |
  3. GaryOwen27

    Will Mitt the Twit ask the Israelies about the USS Liberty?

    July 28, 2012 at 2:00 pm |
  4. Mr Mister



    July 28, 2012 at 1:58 pm |
  5. Sports Fan

    I am reminded of when the New Orleans Saints traded their entire draft to move up and take Ricky Williams in the 1999 NFL draft. NEVER trade up for a running back!

    July 28, 2012 at 1:53 pm |
    • Thomas


      July 28, 2012 at 1:57 pm |
  6. debogail

    Politicizing America's relationship with Israel is abhorrent to Jewish Americans. This is being done foe evangelicals ONLY.

    July 28, 2012 at 1:53 pm |
  7. samonrusty

    Democracy is predicated on the majority vote. Are the Zionists ( Jews and/or Christians ) a majority? If not, then there is something wrong with the system

    July 28, 2012 at 1:43 pm |
  8. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things .

    July 28, 2012 at 1:38 pm |
    • tony

      We're still waiting for that to happen. So far, after coupla thousand years, everything seems to getting worse instead. BTW, Do you know any other English words?

      July 28, 2012 at 2:07 pm |
  9. jimmie

    Mit has Israel in his pocket because Obamination is openly antisemitic and pro-muslim. He even bows to them !

    July 28, 2012 at 1:35 pm |
    • samonrusty

      I think it's the other way around. Israel has not just Mitt but the entire Congress and Senate ( barring a few like Ron Paul ) in their pocket. For a 2% to be so powerful, diminishes democracy

      July 28, 2012 at 1:47 pm |
    • debogail

      You are either a fanatic or a liar. Regardless, you don't know what you're talking about. You are just spewing craziness.

      July 28, 2012 at 1:50 pm |
    • Mr Mister

      What's wrong with being pro-Muslim? How is that worse than being pro-Jewish Zionism???

      July 28, 2012 at 2:00 pm |
    • GaryOwen27

      It wasn't Obama that was asleep at the wheel on 9/11, that was that pro-Islam Red Neck Right.

      July 28, 2012 at 2:03 pm |
    • Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer

      Really? The President you said is antisemetic? Well, you're wrong! So far President Obama has imposed the most severe and stringent sanctions on Iran than any sanctions imposed by any past US President to date and he has done everything within his means to defuse the Israeli-Palestian conflict to finally try to bring about lasting peace in the Middle East. In contrast, what sanctions has GWB place on Iran? Absolutely None! Furthermore, despite GWB being told by advisers and Middle East experts that it would be more productive to work with the PLO in trying to bring about a peace accord with Israel, GWB defiantly called for open elections in Palestian, opening the door for a terrorist group Hamas to reign power over Palestine. Now the end result is a Palestinian government led by Hamas with the possibility for peace between the two factions to be almost impossible. Please stop blaming President Obama for GWB's f-ups.

      July 28, 2012 at 2:04 pm |
  10. Jacob

    I'm Jewish, and Romney you are NOT getting my vote. Obama supports Israel too, but he's not stupid enough to placate the "grassroots" Republicans by antagonizing Iran while showing Israel support. Have fun with your photo ops, Romney. This Jew is too smart to fall for the, "look at me, I support Israel more than my opponent does" vote.

    July 28, 2012 at 1:27 pm |
    • Mr Mister

      Since you love Israel more than the USA, why don't you move there and forfeit your American citizenship?
      There are millions of Chinese and Indians who show undivided loyalty to the USA and have severed past ties with their homeland. Either you are 100% American or you are not.

      July 28, 2012 at 2:05 pm |
  11. Dave

    If Mutt Robmey wants the Jewish or the Evangelical vote, he'll need to abandon Mormonism and join a mainstream religion. Average religious adherents don't wear magic underwear, nor will they go to a magic planet when they die to become "Gods".

    July 28, 2012 at 1:23 pm |
    • jimmie

      I assume by 'main-stream' you mean the type of religion(s) that abuse children !

      July 28, 2012 at 1:42 pm |
  12. Brian

    How many Jews do you know that don't have at least a college education? I don't know any. I can't count how many non-Jews, or Protestants or Catholics that I know that have barely a high school education. So when you ask yourself "why do Jews vote for Democrats"; the answer is because they are smart. They know that Republicans are all about screwing the American consumer so their buddies can make billions.

    July 28, 2012 at 1:16 pm |
  13. John Henson

    Romney will probably tell everyone he's had a security briefing with Mossad and share the Israeli plans to attack Iran.

    CNN, again, shows how little it knows about why some churches wish to keep the US aligned with Israel. Not all Bible believing churches believe the existence of Israel is important. In fact, some teach the truth that Arab lands were stolen to form the "state of Israel."

    July 28, 2012 at 1:12 pm |
    • Mirthful

      1) They were not Arab lands. They were OTTOMAN lands.

      2) They weren't stolen. The Arab Palestinians launched an ethnic civil war against the Jewish Palestinians in 1920 because the Jewish Palestinians asked for autonomy in the areas which were a majority Jewish after the Ottoman Empire fell and while nations were forming from its remains.

      3) The areas captured by Egypt and Jordan were cleansed of every single Jew in 1948. Areas where Jews managed to remain included a large Arab population. Remaining on lands Arabs are trying to cleanse you from isn't, "stealing."

      July 28, 2012 at 1:15 pm |
    • Mr Mister


      July 28, 2012 at 2:10 pm |
  14. jim

    Israel is a cancer on America and western governments.

    July 28, 2012 at 1:01 pm |
    • Demoncrates

      What about Somalis, and the Muslims that are here now? Last time I checked there are a lot of Jewish police officers, they are in the military and majority are successful people. While thanks to the good demoncrates, brought Somalis and other Muslims to America. These groups are a drain on society. Multiculturalism is a great word for those rich liberals in Hollywood that believe they are multicultural because they hire Mexicans to clean their houses, but will call the cops if one walked into their neighborhood in the hills.

      July 28, 2012 at 1:15 pm |
    • Mirthful

      The brain cancer you suffer from, which caused you to be a blithering idiøt isn't, "Israel."

      July 28, 2012 at 1:17 pm |
  15. AGuest9

    Oh, good. Somewhere else for another republican bonehead to embarrass the rest of us.

    July 28, 2012 at 12:55 pm |
  16. easyrhino

    Israel cares about Israel and only Israel.

    The only interest Israel has in the United States is keeping the faucett of US tax-payer dollars flowing. And in exchange of all the dollars that flow to Israel the US gets:

    Israel re-exporting US weapons technology to China
    Dancing Israelis

    July 28, 2012 at 12:55 pm |
    • Demoncrates

      You forgot to mention all the money going to Palestine and Egypt... Wait this is CNN so comments just like the news don't have to be accurate and can be one sided I forgot. It is nice that CNN just reported gun sales lowest ever and barely any Americans care to own guns. The real world has seen more gun sales then ever before. You can thank your Deomoncrates for Arming Mexican drug cartels with more assault weapons and military grade machine guns then ever before. Kinda Ironic that the same administration that put assault rifles in the hands of criminals wants law abiding civilians to go with out weapons.

      July 28, 2012 at 1:07 pm |
    • Mirthful

      "Israel cares about Israel and only Israel."

      That's why when there's a natural disaster anywhere in the world, Israel is one of the first countries to send emergency teams in to assist. What a blathering, clueless dumbfück you are.

      And there were no, "dancing Israelis," asshoIe.

      July 28, 2012 at 1:12 pm |
  17. llɐq ʎʞɔnq

    Well, Mitt can go to the Wailing Wall, and practice-up for November. Then he can go git him some more magic undies, and then go out and wander in the desert for a while, and maybe ole Joe Smith will tell him where the gold tablets are hidden in his backyard.

    July 28, 2012 at 12:52 pm |
  18. Smeagel4T

    Wall Street Mitt is done meeting with is bankster buddies in London, soliciting dark foreign money for his dark money SuperPACs.

    Now it's off to play the groveling lapdog to Israel's right wing extremist warmongers.

    July 28, 2012 at 12:43 pm |
    • Demoncrates

      EWW a liberal puke on a liberal media page. Look at the Deomoncrates, America has never been in so much debt. Thanks, and it is time for a change again! Obamacare is a nice way to make America more like another failing European country. I actually make over $70,000. and would like to not be taxed over 50% of my income, due to socialist programs.

      July 28, 2012 at 1:03 pm |
    • rat13

      Demoncrates: But you'll be perfectly happy with wasting another $2TRIL+ on more mideast BS. Both parties
      are totally useless – wouldn't anyone with any sense be embarrassed to admit alegience to either?

      July 28, 2012 at 1:25 pm |
  19. nik green

    He's probably discussing – with the hardline Likudists – what kind of false flag operation needs to be executed, in order to fast track the inevitable war against Iran.

    July 28, 2012 at 12:42 pm |
  20. Arvoasitis

    When World War I, began in 1914, the general belief was that it would be over by Christmas. By 1916, when the war was at a stalemate, the Germans tried to end it with a major offensive at Verdun and the Allies responded with a counter-offensive at the River Somme. By the end of 1916, one-and-a -half million men had been killed, wounded or taken prisoner. The public and soldiers on both sides was appalled and clamored for peace and president Wilson of the United States offered to broker the peac3e talks. But the generals and politicians on both sides, believing that victory was near at hand, did their best to sabotage the talks by making outrageous demands as a condition of negotiation. Thus, the war continued for two more bloody years,fuelled by new combatants such as the U.S.
    Now, much the same senario is being played out in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I am sure that most people on both sides want peace but the politicians, military leaders and terrorists are unwilling to give up the special advantages that conflict gives them.

    July 28, 2012 at 12:39 pm |
    • llɐq ʎʞɔnq

      One small glitch in yer little thingy there. They've been at each other's throats for about 2,600 years now, ever since the Isra-EL-ites, decided they wanted the land of their neighboring city-states, and cooked up the "promised land" thing , to justify the violent expansionary land ambitions.

      July 28, 2012 at 12:56 pm |
    • Demoncrates

      That is an interesting belief, and there is some small truth to it. Unfortunately the majority of Palestinians will only except peace after every single Israeli is dead. There will never be peace between, these two countries. Israel has made attempts for peace, which have always been answered by Palestinian rockets and suicide bombings. Wake up!

      July 28, 2012 at 1:00 pm |
    • Mirthful

      Bucky's Balls, Jews live on less of the land now than they did prior to 1948. A little tiny country is hardly, "expansion." The Middle East is Arab, Iran and Turkey with Israel. The Arab countries, Turkey and Iran comprise 99.8% of the Middle East. Israel is only 1/5 of 1% of the Middle East. The 99.8% of the Middle East was cleansed of over 90% of its Jews since 1948.

      You claim the Jews are the expansionists? You're insane.

      July 28, 2012 at 1:20 pm |
    • llɐq ʎʞɔnq

      No. I'm not claiming they are NOW expansionists. I was just point out that the whole "promised land" thing is debunked by history , and archaeology. And anyway, the majority of the population of Isra-El, ( the name means "walks with El" .. El who ? ..El Elyon.. the Babylonian god. heh heh), is Arab, right now. (Yahweh was originally one of the 70 sons of El Elyon). Yahweh got "assigned" to the Isra-EL-ites, because he was the god of the armies, ((the "lord of (arrayed), hosts")). Why did they pick him ? Because they wanted help in their battles for the land of their neighbors.

      July 28, 2012 at 1:57 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.