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No undecideds in this crowd

If Wednesday night’s bipartisan debate-watching party at a Washington, D.C. synagogue can be used as a gauge, then the newspaper ads might as well stop – everyone in the Jewish community has already decided who they’re voting for next month.

When the 125 people in attendance at Washington Hebrew Congregation were asked if any of them were undecided a few minutes before the debate began, the response was dead silence. Or perhaps any undecided voters just didn’t want to be hounded all night by representatives of the National Jewish Democratic Council and Republican Jewish Coalition, who joined WHC’s 2239 young professionals group for the event.

Judging from crowd reactions, the group appeared to be at least two-thirds pro-Obama, and the food seemed to confirm that assessment – the “Obama deep-dish pizza” went more quickly than the “McCain chips and salsa.” (The beer was bipartisan.) But everyone was cordial, and Rabbi Joui Hessel’s warning to “please don’t make me wish I had a mechitza to separate certain people” was heeded.

Both sides came away pleased by what they saw, and everyone seemed amused by the frequent mentions of “Joe the Plumber.”

David Lezell, 26, of Washington, thought McCain came across as “strong.”

“It was finally nice to hear him say John McCain is not George Bush,” said Lezell. “That’s what us Republicans have been wanting to hear.” He was pleased to see McCain bring up such controversial issues as former terrorist Bill Ayers and voter registration irregularities at ACORN because “we don’t know who” Barack Obama is.

Meanwhile, Rachel Alberts, 28, of Bethesda, Md., called Wednesday “Obama’s best performance.” She also was glad McCain brought up Ayers and ACORN because it gave the Democrat “a platform” to explain his involvement. “Now we have a better idea” of the truth, she said.

One woman in attendance had already voted. Jessica Savitz of Arlington, Va., is going to be out of town on Election Day, so she voted absentee last week and wore her “I Voted” sticker to the party. An Obama supporter, she was “excited” to have just recently moved from a solidly blue state in Maryland to a purple one like Virginia. She said abortion rights was one of her most important issues – as well as her unhappiness with the last eight years of Republican rule – and said Obama “couldn’t have made a better choice” than Joe Biden for vice president.

As for Sarah Palin, “McCain could have made a better choice,” she said.

There was also one woman in attendance who has decided she isn’t voting for Obama or McCain. Lawyer Jessica Adler, 33, of Washington, was a strong backer of Hillary Clinton during the primaries and said she will write in the former first lady on Nov. 4.

“I’m making a statement,” said Adler, who said she hasn’t been inspired by Obama. But she did concede that if she was casting a ballot in a battleground state – instead of the overwhelmingly Democratic District of Columbia – she would back Obama.

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