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Tough crowd

According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the heads of the National Jewish Democratic Council and the Republican Jewish Coalition both had a tough time with the crowd during a recent debate at one of the area’s main synagogues:

On the right stood Matthew Brooks, executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition in Washington. On the left was Ira Forman, executive director of the National Jewish Democratic Council in the same city.

The men are good friends and deadly opponents. …

No one in the crowd appeared to feel the need to hold back impromptu applause, spontaneous jeers, or even a shout of “No!” or “Absolutely!”

“If you want to snicker,” Forman told the audience at one point, after his suggestion that both Clinton and Obama vigorously backed Israel produced murmurs, “look at the statements.”

He argued – all night, at times to no avail – that because all three candidates had cast votes and made public statements, in some cases over decades, they had established records that made it possible to evaluate their positions reliably.

“We have three pro-Israel candidates,” Forman said, eliciting some groans.

Brooks got the same treatment when, as the discussion turned to abortion, he said it was impossible to predict how a Supreme Court nominee might vote once seated.

“Wrong!” came a voice from the audience.

And his mere mention of “compassionate conservative” brought derisive laughter.

The debate underscored a distinct difference in the strategies being adopted by the NJDC and the RJC as they battle for Jewish votes and money. The Republican pitch to Jews is essentially that they shouldn’t worry about domestic issues because McCain is much better for Jerusalem; on the other side, Forman argues that all three candidates left in the field are friends of Israel so Jewish voters should feel comfortable making their decision based on abortion, church-state, etc.

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