WASHINGTON, Feb. 28 (JTA) — If every campaign had Sid Rosen and Irving Shuman in its corner, the presidential primary might be a very different kind of fight.
In just six months, these two Jewish supporters of John McCain managed to re-register between 5,000 and 7,000 Jewish Democrats to vote for the Arizona senator in the Republican primary.
Granted, McCain was expected to win in his home state and the “insurance votes” did not make or break the outcome, as McCain won the primary by a margin of 60 percent to 36 percent.
Nevertheless, the McCain campaign in Arizona, which even paid for ads that encouraged the re-registration, was “very appreciative” of the effort, said Doug Cole, a McCain spokesman.
Two lifelong Democrats, Rosen and Shuman, have put their hope and trust in a Republican. Why are they going against the grain when it comes to traditional Jewish support for Democrats and why do they think John McCain the better man?
“He is a true American hero,” Rosen said, sounding familiar McCain themes. “He’s got one hell of a track record and he deserves our support.”
Shuman, a state chairman for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee who says his opinions do not reflect those of AIPAC, found that McCain was not a hard sell, particularly with men in the business community. It was mostly women who had trouble with McCain’s anti-abortion-rights stance.
But both men found McCain’s record on Israel to be a powerful argument. McCain has said he would move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and he supports Israel’s positions in negotiations with Syria and the Palestinians.
It was McCain’s foreign policy positions that first drew Rosen to McCain. His backing started in 1981, before McCain ever ran for Congress. Rosen heard McCain deliver a foreign policy speech at a local Kiwanis club, and the speech so impressed him that he approached McCain and said, “If you ever decide to run for office — whatever party — count me in. It would be my privilege.”
Fifteen months later, McCain called Rosen and “Democrats for McCain” was born.
Today, Rosen is practical about his support for the other party, as long as it’s for the right man.
“If a Republican were going to be elected, do you want an unknown commodity or do you want the proven record of McCain?” he asked.
Rosen has traveled to California to support the campaign, although he will not run a re-registration drive there. California has an open primary on March 7, but both parties are fighting over the law that only registered Republicans’ votes will count toward the final Republican delegate selection.
Should McCain win the nomination, both Rosen and Shuman are sure that at least he can count on their re-registered Democrats as a few thousand extra votes.
“The majority are with John McCain all the way,” Rosen said.