Obama wins in Pa., Ohio & Fla.

Polls show Barack Obama winning the presidency, a day after campaigning in Jacksonville, Fla. (Creative Commons/Obama for America)

Polls show Barack Obama winning the presidency, a day after campaigning in Jacksonville, Fla. (Creative Commons/Obama for America)

The former U.S. peace negotiator Dennis Ross has been the Obama campaign's senior Middle East adviser. ()

The former U.S. peace negotiator Dennis Ross has been the Obama campaign’s senior Middle East adviser. ()

American Jews strongly favored Barack Obama in the Nov. 4, 2008 vote, helping him secure a sweeping victory overall. (Caruba / Creative Commons)

American Jews strongly favored Barack Obama in the Nov. 4, 2008 vote, helping him secure a sweeping victory overall. (Caruba / Creative Commons)

Breakdown of the Jewish vote in the 2008 U.S. presidential election, according to initial exit polling data. ()

Breakdown of the Jewish vote in the 2008 U.S. presidential election, according to initial exit polling data. ()

Barack Obama won Pennsylvania, Ohio and Florida, where both campaigns mounted an intense and controversial battle for the general and Jewish vote.

Hillary Clinton scored significant victories in all three states during the primaries, as well as within their respective Jewish communities. This fueled speculation that Obama would have a tough time winning any of the states and faced an uphill climb with Jewish voters.

With just days to go before the election, John McCain had declared Pennsylvania a must-win state for him to have any chance of capturing the White House. Both campaigns fought hard for the Jewish vote in the last weeks of the race. The Obama campaign conducted an extensive outreach effort in the Jewish community,with nearly daily events intended to assuage any lingering concerns about Obama’s support for Israel.

On the GOP side, the state Republican Party issued a controversial letter, signed by three prominent Jews, suggesting that a victory for Obama could lead to another Holocaust. Two of the signatories later distanced themselves from the letter, with one signatory, a former state supreme court justice, issuing an apology.  The flap over the letter was indicative of the intense and divisive nature of the campaign in the Jewish community.

The campaigns also blanketed Ohio with surrogates, with top advisers to both candidates reaching out beyond Jewish centers in Cleveland and Cincinnati to even the smaller Jewish communities throughout the state.

Florida handed McCain a decisive victory during the GOP primaries. For months, pundits and politicians had speculated that Obama would have trouble in the state, because of the racial attitudes of Jewish seniors. 

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