Wedging Florida Jews

I wondered in an earlier post if the Romney campaign was under the impression its loud differences with Obama over recent international events could actually affect the election. Seems it could be, based on a report from the New York Times‘ Lizette Alvarez about the efforts underway in Florida to chip off a chunk of Obama’s expected big margin among Jewish voters:

Focused on South Florida, Ohio and Nevada, the Republican Jewish Coalition, backed mostly by the casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, a Zionist, has begun spending $6.5 million on an air-and-ground strategy to reach Jewish voters who may view Mr. Obama as unreliable on the question of Israel’s security. Jewish voters, who generally vote for Democrats in big numbers, overwhelmingly supported Mr. Obama in 2008, giving him 78 percent of their vote, according to exit polls conducted by Edison/Mitofsky

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In Florida, where the largest share of the $6.5 million is being spent, one of the group’s most visible messages is along Interstate 95 and the Florida Turnpike, including in Boca Raton and in Broward County, areas with large Jewish populations. A series of red-and-blue billboards lament: “Obama … Oy Vey!!” Then ask, “Had enough?”

Last week, the coalition began the first in a series of “buyer’s remorse” television ads featuring a Jewish voter concerned about Israel and the economy who declared that he would not vote for Mr. Obama this time around.

The question arises immediately as to whether this campaign is based on supply- or demand-side considerations–i.e., is it about an actual electoral opportunity, or about Sheldon Adelson putting up the money and insisting on it?

According to the 2008 exits, Jews represented approximately 4% of the vote in Florida, 3% in Nevada, and 2% in Ohio. That’s a pretty small target. Obama is running at about 70% among Jews in scattered polling, so there’s no empirical reason to believe he’s in big trouble with this demographic.

Sure, if Florida is as close as it was in 2000, then a small reduction in Democratic margins among Jews could be crucial, as could Democratic losses among virtually every other category of voter, including Trotskyists, Croatian-Americans, and that enduring vault of presumed swing voters, the Very Confused. As to whether it’s worth this kind of effort, or the apparent message reinforcement Team Mitt is supplying, you’d have to ask Sheldon Adelson, presumably on November 7.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.