Jewish members of the U.S. Congress refused Tuesday to admit that Barack Obama was having any problems with older Jewish voters in South Florida and predicted at a Denver press conference that the Democrat would hit “historically high numbers” in the Jewish community – even though Obama is running almost 15 points behind John Kerry’s Jewish support in 2004. [UPDATE: Check out video from the press conference.]
Asked twice about reports from two Florida state legislators of having encountered hostility toward the Democratic candidate from Jewish seniors in South Florida, Rep. Robert Wexler (D-Fla.) offered a conflicting view. He reiterated that Obama’s support among Jews in South Florida was “substantial and growing” and that this week’s convention – and Hillary Clinton’s Tuesday night speech – would change the mind of any holdouts.
Both Wexler and Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) also asserted that Obama would do as well as any Democrat has done among Jewish voters – a stunning prediction considering that Obama is currently garnering 61-62 percent, almost 20 points lower than the high-water mark of Bill Clinton’s 80 percent in 1992 and significantly lower than John Kerry’s 75 percent four years ago.
Both Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif.) and Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) claimed that Kerry was doing similarly well among Jews at this point in the campaign. In fact, a poll sponsored by the National Jewish Democratic Council had Kerry up 75-22 percent in mid-August 2004.
Rep. Shelley Berkley (D-Nev.), a former Hillary Clinton supporter, said Obama’s Jewish numbers would rise once American Jews knew about his position on Israel, just as Obama persuaded her after the conclusion of the Democratic primaries.
The Obama campaign’s new Jewish message was also on display at Tuesday’s press conference, with a number of the six participants emphasizing that Obama represents the traditional “values” of the Jewish community while John McCain does not. They also attacked the Bush administration’s handling of a variety of issues in the Middle East and argued that Israel would be better served by an Obama administration.