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. deecoastal

    Knowing Mitt Romney's conviction as a Christian – Yes, Mormons are Christians – He understands both the religious and strategic importance of Israel and the Jewish people. If anyone thinks that Obama wouldn't sell Israel out in a hot minute hasn't been watching him disrespect that country and its leaders for the past four years. "Giving" money to Israel isn't his idea, believe me. When it got released – that's his cheap trick. Israel knows for a fact who will support it and will be reassured with Mitt Romney's visit. Typically, a presidential candidate will make a foreign trip, but it takes some chutzpah to visit Israel, and Romney has it. And he will show it plainly after he is in the White House. Based on the comments here, it is so important to bring real change to America. Go Mitt!

    July 28, 2012 at 10:30 pm |
    • Uhhh

      "...a presidential candidate will make a foreign trip, but it takes some chutzpah to visit Israel, and Romney has it."

      What on Earth are you talking about? EVERY SINGLE American presidential candidate who is serious about getting elected must make the requisite pilgrimage to Israel while campaigning. This is true of Romney, and it was true of Obama (back in 2008). What was your point again?

      July 28, 2012 at 10:44 pm |
    • Uhhh

      Btw, since you brought religion into this, do you realize the hypocrisy in labeling Palestinians (who actually live in that part of the world) as fanatical religious extremists while at the same time being completely fine with American Evangelicals' unbreakable "support" for Israel from half-way around the world because they think their ancient holy book commands them to do so, in hopes of triggering the Apocalypse and the second coming of Jesus (and let's not even mention what that would mean to the Jews they pretend to be supporting, eh)?

      July 28, 2012 at 10:55 pm |
  2. Alfredo

    Romney is courting the vote in many circles but ultimately it will be the sluggish US economy and high unemployment that might give him the presidency.....

    July 28, 2012 at 10:30 pm |
  3. Purush

    Israeli jews must remember one thing. Romney is there for vote bank politics not because he cares for Israel. And the problem with these vote bank politics people is that they can as easily dump you as they court you. For them everything is down to how the equation sums up. And Mitt has been at it all through his life – managing profit equations – even to the detriment of US many a times.

    July 28, 2012 at 10:22 pm |
  4. cnfrisch

    Romney is fading fast......

    July 28, 2012 at 10:21 pm |
    • obamahastogo

      Are you talking about our next president?

      July 28, 2012 at 10:24 pm |
    • Obamahasatoga

      No, he wasn't.

      July 28, 2012 at 10:26 pm |
    • UinDenial

      Mr. obamahastogo – you need to get a reality check. Do not discount that Mitt's cult orientation will be an increasing dismantlng of Mitt's effort. Aside from that, Christian-based voters are not comfortable with him and many will "fault" on the the Nov. Day – not quite able to bring themselves to swallow the irony of the whole religious thing. Second – many Moderates with a "sane" perspective have already said they will not vote for Mitt. It will be close, but there are many in the silent majority that will show up to the polls in Nov. because they realize the stakes and oh by the way (OBTW) – they really understand the difference of having a Black POTUS driving the fringe bat-sch-tick and reality – of the bigger picture. It is what is is my friend 😉

      July 28, 2012 at 10:39 pm |
  5. WoeIsMe

    Some previous posts from Mormon-oriented and prayer-based folks were made here earlier. Here's a few Mormon factoids (dem darn facts is really painful)
    1) J. Smith was a convicted con-artist on numerous times (non-post Mormon cult creation)
    2) He said God is 6' 2" living on the planet Kalob on the other side of the galaxy (at the time the extent of The Universe was believed to be the Milky Way Galaxy – and oh, how convienient it could not be proven otherwise at the time)
    3) Science proved since E. Hubble there are billions of galaxies (did Smith's personal conversations with Jesus and God limit to a narrow Universe?)
    4) J. Smith's Mormon Holy Doctrin labeled Blacks as sub-humans and to be excluded from the club (they only recently allowed Blacks in, due to modernization of PC pressure – did God change its mind here? That would be a red flag to anyone with a sense of sanity)
    5) Being a convicted con – it makes sane sense that this convicted con-artist also had a thing for young girls and multiple wives (how convienient if one is in a monthly cycle, chances are he could get the boo-ty from another – and keeping them below legal age is an added treat for a pedophile-oriented putz)
    6) I'm still stuck on the multiple boo-ty thing... was a great thing in my younger days but I grew into self-reponsibility to my mate and offspring
    7) I'm still stuck on the Black thing in Mormonisim – banned until recent time. What changed? God's mind? I seriously doubt that.
    The whole package is full of holes and should raise anyone's eyebrows and question EVERYTHING.

    July 28, 2012 at 10:19 pm |
    • deecoastal

      Your discussion (I use that term loosely) is disgusting. You are sadly mistaken about the facts surrounding The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints – the Mormons. If you think berating members of the 4th largest church in America in such a foul-mouthed manner is not the same bullying and racist behavior of which you make accusations, you need to think again. Ohh, right. Obviously not your strong suit – at least try using a dictionary next time.

      July 28, 2012 at 10:40 pm |
    • Really

      deecoastal – help the masses understand the Black thing in Mormonisim. Many are very confused over this. You posed no supporting facts to your arguements. I see facts have hit a nerve with you. Your arguement is best supported with qualifying facts, resouces, references and non-emotional attachments. Can you validate that this person Smith was not a convicted con-artist? Can you please validate that there is only one galexy? Please understand that many in this world use facts and research to their conclusions. Thank you for playing today sir!

      July 28, 2012 at 10:53 pm |
  6. Ronald Raygun

    mitt romney wants that jew gold

    July 28, 2012 at 10:19 pm |
  7. WeDon'tMatter

    The only way "Mitt the Twit" could top his disastrous United Kingdom visit is to guarantee to the Israelis that he will wear his magic panties and baptize all Jewish people as Mormons after they die.

    July 28, 2012 at 10:03 pm |
  8. Mark Taylor

    Why is this guy interfering with US foreign policy? A tad presumptuous.

    July 28, 2012 at 10:03 pm |
    • obamahastogo

      Because our community leader in chief has basically ignored our only real ally in the Middle East.

      July 28, 2012 at 10:17 pm |
    • UinDenial

      Mr. obamamustgo – Are you privy to the highest-level global security briefings? Please do share the intel that the rest of us are not privy to. You are kidding yourself if you actually believe President Obama is in dire straits with Israel. The "hits" on Iran's nuke scientists and the virus that brought down Iran's centrifuges was a joint effort between the US and Israel. All this noise of President Obama not in favor with Israel is exactly what these governments want the fringe countries to believe. Its politics 101 and if you cannot bring yourself to see the bigger picture then "Good luck with that" Bob...

      July 28, 2012 at 10:46 pm |
  9. Socrates

    This guy is a fanatic religious. I am not very impressed with Obama, however, I trust him more than this loony Mormon. How can you trust somebody who is running for the presidency and, at the same time is cheating with his taxes hiding his money in off shore accounts.

    July 28, 2012 at 9:44 pm |
  10. maltesefalconx9

    During the Apocalypse, wouldn't izraeel be destroyed? After all, they have rejected Christianity. So they would be condemned to Hell as unbelievers.

    July 28, 2012 at 9:43 pm |
    • cleareye1

      Silly absurdity.

      July 28, 2012 at 9:46 pm |
    • Ronald Raygun

      people sure do get carried away with old folk tales

      July 28, 2012 at 10:16 pm |
  11. maltesefalconx9

    I don't think President Romney should treat izraeel "with a respect and an appreciation". He should ignore them in a similar fashion to Lebanon or Syria. "We" are not izraeel; we are the United Kingdom. Or perhaps Canada. izraeel is just too foreign and too far away. Let the United Nations deal with that problem; that's what they're there for. If you want your moment of silence, go have it.

    July 28, 2012 at 9:39 pm |
  12. Andy in Oz

    I would assume the answer to the headline is something like "Not giving another leader and the population in general of another traditional ally the poo's" as he seemed to achieve in the UK. Do I win a prize?

    July 28, 2012 at 9:39 pm |
  13. Johnson

    The main problem for Romney is that his credibility is as bad in Israel as it is here in the States. He will do or say anything to be elected. He wants war with Iran as does Cheney and McCain; however, none of the Romney boys will go. It will be our National Guard and Military drawn from the middle and lower income classes.

    July 28, 2012 at 9:37 pm |
  14. Blamey

    sucking up to a foreign power. There is a name for that.

    July 28, 2012 at 9:35 pm |
  15. wordsdontmatter

    its been about 7 billion a year since 1979 for the egypt isreal peace treaty...

    its split between Isreal Egypt and Jordon in arms $$ cash transfers that go from US tax coffers thru these countries back to 'private' US arms contractors... so its worse than $$ cash transfer many complain about for the poor and its hardly capitalism and it spreads arms weapons abusing capitalism through false incentives to prop up dictators like mubarak, abusive otherwise weak likud government, and essentially provides them incentive to have lobbyist in DC too from these 3 countries to keep it up.. yeah it sucks all the way around and sounds satanic to me and non enlightenment practices ..so revelation or secular enlightenment calls this crap evil..

    if christian zionist actually believe this than maybe they are right that it will bring Gods will about in revelation, however, they will have been doing satans will in the process so i am sure they will get the 'get away i never knew you' break up speech

    July 28, 2012 at 9:35 pm |
  16. RE McCray

    Great, now he is going to offend the Jews. First the Brits. Radical Muslims must love the alien religious freak.

    July 28, 2012 at 9:34 pm |
    • obamahastogo

      Right, and Obama sending the bust of Winston Churchill back to England wasn't nearly as offensive!

      July 28, 2012 at 10:22 pm |
    • Obamahasatoga

      Hey, stop that. Winston Churchill is MUCH greater than god.

      July 28, 2012 at 10:25 pm |
  17. tony

    Making secret Promises to the country that colonized America.

    July 28, 2012 at 9:23 pm |
  18. maltesefalconx9

    Who cares about the "jewish vote". We don't need another ten years of the Vietnam War.

    July 28, 2012 at 9:01 pm |
    • Peikovianyii

      Who cares about the anti-Jewish vote? Those guys are always malignant cretins.

      July 28, 2012 at 9:20 pm |
    • maltesefalconx9

      Look – The Government made a comment.
      "Malignant cretin" – yeah, ha, well that says something about how they view others.

      July 28, 2012 at 9:53 pm |
    • Shangey G.

      Thank you. My thoughts exactly. It seems both Obama and Romney are paying a visit to their masters home. Why don't they go to Hajj, or Mecca, instead? Why aren't they going to the Vatican?

      July 28, 2012 at 10:22 pm |
  19. Mormonism and other world religions explained

    Good explanation of world religions.


    July 28, 2012 at 8:57 pm |

    Then you'd have a funny life again!

    July 28, 2012 at 8:54 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.