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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. hoodinki

    Why are we so tight with Israel? I suspect the average American would not approve, and we're not really aware of what's really going on. More likely than not, the US is being played for chumps.

    July 28, 2012 at 8:48 pm |
    • Peikovianyii

      Why do Jihadis always think they can con others into believing they are Americans? Dumb khanzeers.

      July 28, 2012 at 9:22 pm |
  2. Bruce

    Unless Romney learns to lift people up rather than tear them down he will lose.

    Those who believe they can expedite God's plan by backing Israel either have a large opinion of themselves or a small opinion of God.

    July 28, 2012 at 8:45 pm |
  3. b4bigbang

    Pray for the peace of Jerusalem.

    July 28, 2012 at 8:38 pm |
  4. Mormonism and other world religions explained

    Good clip on Mormonism:

    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MtX_R-V5Cws&w=640&h=360]

    July 28, 2012 at 8:36 pm |
    • Sam Yaza

      [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9E4M39FRIGc&w=640&h=360]

      July 28, 2012 at 9:17 pm |
  5. Steve

    Is it just me or is Romney about as awkward as anyone I've ever seen?.

    July 28, 2012 at 8:35 pm |
    • cas

      Trust me! Not just you.

      July 28, 2012 at 8:45 pm |
  6. Kate Chase

    While I believe in right of Israel to exist, there must be reason. Since Begin's horrible end, the parade of Likkud Zionist extremists like Netanyahu & Sharon have guaranteed instability, strife, death.

    I, for one, have appreciated finally having a president who does not roll over to Bebe of Zion. Support nations who need it, but I question whether one of smallest nations deserves largest welfare check. Divides billions (yes) given to Israel each yr into 4 million people & one must wonder if money is justified, esp given our financial straits.

    To many Israelis – non Likkuds – and American jews, Bebe isn't a warrior savor but a man w unchecked ego & power.

    July 28, 2012 at 8:35 pm |
    • maltesefalconx9

      Bangladesh would be a more deserving candidate for the welfare cheque. And it is a more interesting subject to read about.

      July 28, 2012 at 10:04 pm |
  7. Mike Botwin

    Is he buying the Gaza strip?

    July 28, 2012 at 8:27 pm |
  8. NoWarForIsrael

    I'm voting for Bishop Romney because I know he will get rid of all the jews.
    I hope I can get a job at one of the camps.
    Seig Heil

    July 28, 2012 at 8:10 pm |
    • Patricksday

      Romney will loose when the debates begin and the question comes up about his Loyalty to America and its people when he has off shore bank accounts. How can someone like this think of being the Commander and Chief of the United States? There are not enough Mormons to get him elected or bigots who just want President Obama out.

      July 28, 2012 at 8:19 pm |
    • Rational Libertarian

      Footloose

      July 28, 2012 at 8:20 pm |
    • Peikovianyii

      I'm sure when you're saddamized you'll weep like Eva Braun.

      July 28, 2012 at 8:30 pm |
    • Bruce

      Patricksday says anyone who wants Obama out is a bigot. Please tell me more about your inclusiveness and diversity.

      July 28, 2012 at 8:48 pm |
    • Rational Libertarian

      He's right to have offshore bank accounts. Income tax is theft and should only be used during emergency times, e.g. war.

      July 28, 2012 at 8:53 pm |
    • Patricksday

      Shady people need off shore banks, honest people are transparent. President Obama will win in November 2012 Amen

      July 28, 2012 at 10:53 pm |
  9. Jack

    Greetings folks. Everyone is cordially invited to visit – thestarofkaduri.com

    July 28, 2012 at 8:08 pm |
  10. John

    If Romney believes the Presidency will be his because of Israel, his religion isn't the only delusional aspect to his candidacy.

    July 28, 2012 at 8:04 pm |
  11. Dude Looks Like A Laity

    $70 million tax dollars just went to another country that doesn't need it. Shouldn't that be a headline itself?

    July 28, 2012 at 8:01 pm |
  12. Casual Man

    You are stuck in a room with Hitler, Stalin and a black guy. You have a gun with only two bullets. What do you do? Shoot homeboy in the face twice.

    July 28, 2012 at 7:52 pm |
    • John

      I didn't know the psychiatric ward allows patients access to the Internet without supervision.

      July 28, 2012 at 8:22 pm |
    • Patricksday

      Sounds like the "Christian Family Values" trend of thought, hate and Judge everyone who does not scare you or push you out of your comfort zone.

      July 28, 2012 at 8:23 pm |
    • endofuniverse

      what is your point?

      July 28, 2012 at 8:32 pm |
  13. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things .

    July 28, 2012 at 7:51 pm |
    • Heather

      Talking to your imaginary friend changes things how? Seems to me you'd be better off doing things?

      July 28, 2012 at 8:47 pm |
  14. Josh

    Evangelicals don't care about Israel, they just want to keep arming them and egg on a war with their neighbors, to bring about biblical prophecy. Peace in the Middle East is the last thing on the minds of fundies.

    July 28, 2012 at 7:49 pm |
    • John

      so tru. so very, very true. They long for the apocalypse and relish the thought of others burning in the pits.

      July 28, 2012 at 8:22 pm |
  15. Chronic Smoker

    Do they have those "leave a penny, take a penny" trays at convenient stores in Israel? I doubt it.

    July 28, 2012 at 7:49 pm |
    • truth be told

      It is take a sheckle leave a sheckle.

      July 28, 2012 at 7:50 pm |
  16. NoWarForIsrael

    Israel wants you to sacrifice your children's lives for their corrupt wars. Why use their own soldiers when they can hijack our government and use ours?

    July 28, 2012 at 7:47 pm |
  17. biologixco

    Mitt is a kitty kicking dog beater.
    Remember Seamus~!
    Obama2012~!

    July 28, 2012 at 7:45 pm |
  18. no nothing

    Mitt to Israel: Everything is going to be fine if I am elected, just fine.

    July 28, 2012 at 7:44 pm |
  19. Chronic Smoker

    Romney likes to perforn anallingus on homeless vets.

    July 28, 2012 at 7:43 pm |
  20. biologixco

    Mitt didn't look very Presidential in London did he?
    Epic FAIL = Romney2012.
    Four More Years and a Medal of Honor for BarryO.
    Obama2012~!

    July 28, 2012 at 7:42 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.