WASHINGTON (Mar. 25)
Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton, the front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination, continues to divide the Jewish vote almost evenly with his leading opponent.
This happened Tuesday in Connecticut with the surprise victory of former California Gov. Jerry Brown, who also edged out Clinton in the Jewish vote.
Brown is believed to have picked up supporters of former Sen. Paul Tsongas of Massachusetts, who dropped out last week.
Tsongas had done better than Clinton among Jewish voters, except in Florida, where a majority of the Jewish vote went to Clinton. But in all cases, the vote was almost evenly divided.
In Connecticut, Brown received 37 percent of the total vote Tuesday; Clinton won 36 percent; and Tsongas got 20 percent, even though he was no longer running.
There was no immediate indication of how Jewish Republicans voted in Tuesday’s primary. President Bush won 67 percent of the overall vote, while conservative columnist Patrick Buchanan, who has been accused by Jewish groups of making anti-Semitic statements, got 22 percent.
Louisiana state Rep. David Duke, a former neo-Nazi and Ku Klux Klansman, got 2 percent of the Republican vote.
The real test of the appeal of Brown and Clinton to Jewish voters will come April 7 in the all-important New York primary, where Jews make up a significant percentage of the voters. There Clinton has the decided edge, according to David Ifshin, the Clinton campaign’s general counsel and adviser on Jewish affairs.
Ifshin said that Jews in higher income brackets tended to back Tsongas before he dropped out and then Brown in Connecticut. These were the same people who supported former Sen. Gary Hart of Colorado in 1988.
But the New York Jewish community is much more diverse and is likely to be responsive to Clinton’s message on urban affairs and the healing of rifts between communities, such as blacks and Jews, Ifshin said.
He said that when Clinton appeared before the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations earlier this year, most of his speech focused on Israel. But when he was asked questions, they chiefly dealt with urban problems.
But Israel is expected to come to the fore as an issue in the New York state primary, even though so far there has been little discussion in the campaign of the Middle East or other foreign affairs issues.