Bryan Schwartzman of Philadelphia’s Jewish Exponent files two stores from what is now Ground Zero of the fight for the Democratic presidential nomination.
First, a look at local Jewish Republican efforts to boost John McCain:
Before heading out on a congressional trip that includes stops in Iraq and Israel, U.S. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) – the presumptive Republican presidential nominee – made two appearances in the area to raise both funds and his political profile, especially since media attention remains glued on his two Democratic rivals who’ve been determinedly wooing voters in the Keystone state. …
He’s trying to use this time to catch up in fundraising; to date, he’s pulled in just shy of $54 million while U.S. Sen. Barrack Obama (D-Ill.) has raised more than $138 million and U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) more than $134 million. To help fill his war chest, a group of individuals affiliated with the campaign, including several Jewish supporters, staged a March 13 Philadelphia fundraiser for McCain at the Rittenhouse Hotel.
“Every dollar he raises he keeps. By the time [Clinton and Obama] finish beating each other up, as much as they are raising, they are going to spend it all,” said Ken Davis, chairman of the Montgomery County Republican Committee.
Davis, like many other Jewish Republicans, initially supported former Mayor Rudy Giuliani before his presidential aspirations tanked.
Also, Schwartzman reported on the Democratic side, gaging some of the reaction to Barack Obama’s speech on race relations and looking at his battle with Hillary Clinton:
Did his speech – which addressed both black and white attitudes toward the race question – sufficiently answer his critics?
Jay Leberman, head of school at the Perelman Jewish Day School, attended the speech as a Jewish communal leader, but has not endorsed any candidate. He said Obama did a credible job of addressing concerns.
“There are times in Jewish society – he was not wrong – where I have cringed at the community leaders saying things I would never agree with,” said Leberman.
Reached by phone, Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, noted that by reinforcing America’s alliance with Israel and condemning radical Islam, Obama displayed a particular sensitivity to the Jewish community.
Foxman added, however, that while Obama gave an insightful talk on race, he went too far in trying to explain away Wright’s views.
“There is no justification. No rationale, no amount of pain justifies bigotry,” said Foxman.
Obama also has more prosaic problems to confront: namely, sagging poll numbers. According to a March 18 Quinnipiac University Poll, Clinton leads Obama among likely Pennsylvania primary voters by 53 percent to 41 percent, up from a 49 percent to 43 percent lead on February 14.
On March 12, David Plouffe, Obama’s campaign manager, released a memo that downplayed the importance of Pennsylvania in the nomination fight.
The next day, two high-profile Clinton supporters, Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell and Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, both blasted the Obama campaign, arguing that the winner of the state’s contest deserves to be the nominee.
And, on the same day as Obama’s speech, Clinton selected Philadelphia City Hall as the site for a major speech of her own about the fifth anniversary of the war in Iraq and her stated goal of bringing troops home.