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America Decides 2004 in Close Election, Campaigns Reach out to Voters Through Ads in Jewish Media

The presidential campaigns and their surrogates are reaching out to Jewish audiences through the Jewish media. Jewish political organizations — the National Jewish Democratic Council and the Republican Jewish Coalition — are touting their candidates and attacking their opponents through a series of print advertisements launched this month.

These ads go farther than the Rosh Hashanah greetings candidates and organizations normally send out. They go to the heart of the key issues for the Jewish community this election season Israel, the war against terrorism and the separation of church and state.

With less than two months to go before Election Day, Jewish political operatives are hoping to cement their support within the Jewish community and persuade undecided voters.

Of particular concern are key battleground states with large Jewish populations, like Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

“I think they’re bot! h doing more outreach this time around than they did in the past,” said Elie Rosenfeld, chief operating officer at Joseph Jacobs, an advertising agency specializing in Jewish consumers. “It’s because the Jews are a concern in the states that are a concern.”

The NJDC’s Victory Fund has run two ads. One highlights Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry’s record on Middle East issues, such as supporting Israel and its security, and taking on terrorist links from Saudi Arabia.

The second highlights comments Bush administration officials have made advocating an increased role of Christian faith in government.

Both say “There Is a Choice” and tout Kerry’s “20 Years of Standing With Us.”

One RJC ad says “Read what John Kerry Had to Say about Israel in his acceptance speech:” with a large amount of white space below, followed by the words “Absolutely Nothing” in block letters.

“John Kerry’s Silence on Israel Says a Lot,” the ad reads, along with a sol! icitation for readers to join the organization.

A second RJC ad f eatures a photo of President Bush at the Western Wall in Jerusalem, with a quote comparing attacks against Israel and the United States. It features highlights from Bush’s comments in May to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.

Both Jewish political groups are loathe to discuss the strategy behind their ads or their placement, but different trends have emerged.

Republicans — who all admit that their chances of overturning traditional Jewish support for Democrats in November are slim — are taking the longer view, hoping to slowly change views about the party and build up membership in the RJC. The NJDC ads focus more closely on the candidate.

NJDC’s executive Director Ira Forman said the ads are strictly being sent to swing states.

“What we’re trying to do is educate and influence marginal voters in battleground states,’ he said.

The strategy also includes extensive voter contact programs in several cities with large Jewish populations, like! Palm Beach, Fla., Cleveland and Philadelphia.

The Kerry/Edwards campaign also took out ads in some of the nation’s larger Jewish newspapers in nonbattleground states. These ads, geared predominantly at donors and other supporters in cities like New York and Washington, featured the Kerry and Edwards families and mixed messages of Rosh Hashanah greetings and support for Israel.

Under current election laws, campaigns are not allowed to coordinate with political advocacy groups, commonly known as 527s, for their Internal Revenue Code designation. That is why, sources said, you have seen NJDC and Kerry/Edwards ads in some of the same newspapers.

No Bush/Cheney ads have appeared in Jewish newspapers, said Matt Brooks, the RJC’s executive director.

“The goal of the advertising campaign is to build membership and discuss the issues with the community,” Brooks said. Sources said the ads may expand beyond the battleground states for that purpose.

Neither side! would say how much money they intend to spend on advertising in the J ewish community, or on their larger outreach effort.

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