WASHINGTON (Mar. 11)
While Bill Clinton swept the Democratic presidential primaries in five southern states Tuesday, Jews split their votes almost evenly between the Arkansas governor and former Sen. Paul Tsongas of Massachusetts.
Jewish Democrats accounted for 5 percent of those who voted in Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee and Texas, according to an exit poll published in The Washington Post.
The Jewish voters in those “Super Tuesday” states combined split 48 percent for Clinton and 41 for Tsongas, with another 9 percent voting for former California Gov. Jerry Brown.
By comparison, Clinton won over 60 percent of the overall vote in those five states and Tsongas received 22 percent.
Clinton also won the primary in Oklahoma and the caucus in Missouri. Tsongas won the primaries in his home state of Massachusetts and in neighboring Rhode Island. He also won the Delaware caucus. There was no immediate information on the Jewish vote in these states.
The Washington Post poll also gave no breakdown of the Jewish vote in the five southern Republican primaries. Jews in these states made up only 1 percent of the Republican vote.
President Bush easily won all five states and three others where he was entered. However, about 30 percent of Republican voters continued to register a protest vote against Bush, most of which went to columnist Patrick Buchanan.
Buchanan’s entry into the race seemed to all but eliminate the vote for Louisiana state Rep. David Duke. The former Ku Klux Klansman and neo-Nazi received only 2 or 3 percent of the vote in most states, though he won 11 percent in Mississippi and 9 percent in his home state.
COMPETITION FOR VOTE IN FLORIDA
However, most Jews took little comfort from this because they see Buchanan, who many consider anti-Semitic, as a more respectable way to vote for the same ideas held by Duke.
Buchanan was sharply attacked this week by Republican Gov. Pete Wilson of California. Speaking Monday at a job fair for senior citizens in Stockton, Calif., Wilson snapped: “I think some of his comments have been downright racist and anti-Semitic. There is no place in our Republican Party for that.”
The main battleground for Jewish votes was in Florida, the first primary state so far where Jewish voters could make a real difference. Both Clinton and Tsongas made strong appeals to the Jewish community, with Clinton attacking his rival’s stance on Israel.
Florida was also the state where Tsongas had the best chance of winning. But Clinton won about half of the overall vote and Tsongas only a third of the vote, while the Jewish vote was almost evenly divided. According to a New York Times exit poll, the Jewish vote in Florida went 46 percent for Clinton, 44 percent for Tsongas and 11 percent for Brown.
This is where the Jewish vote appears to be as the primary battle moves into two Midwestern states where Jews make up an important part of the Democratic vote: Illinois and Michigan. The March 17 primary in those states will be followed by primaries in Connecticut, New York and Pennsylvania, which all have large Jewish populations.
In Illinois, the National Jewish Democratic Council is urging voters to vote against incumbent Rep. Gus Savage, a Democrat whom it has denounced for another outburst of anti-Semitism.
The Chicago Sun-Times quoted Savage at a March 7 candidates forum as saying that there was a “danger of genocide” against blacks and that “the Jewish population is contributing to this pending disaster.”
Savage also was quoted as declaring that the primary contest, in which he is being challenged by Mel Reynolds, will be decided on “how you feel about Jews rather than how you feel about blacks.” Both Savage and Reynolds are black.
Savage, who frequently attacks Jews and Israel, defeated Reynolds two years ago, charging that his challenger was supported by funds from Jews. But Reynolds, who lost by a small margin in 1990, is given a better chance this year, since the district lines have been redrawn.
“African-Americans, American Jews and other minorities should be joining hands to fight bigotry of any kind, not attacking each other,” said Steve Gutow, executive director of the Jewish Democratic group.
“It’s our hope that on March 17 those hands will close the book on Savage’s political career and begin a fresh chapter in Chicago politics,” he said.