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America Decides 2004 Kerry Machine and Concerns About Dean Sway Iowa Jews

January 21, 2004
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Jewish voters in Iowa turned to Sen. John Kerry in large numbers because of a well-oiled machine that targeted Jews — and because of ongoing concerns about Howard Dean, activists there say.

Alan Koslow, a Dean activist who hosted a caucus in West Des Moines — where many of the state’s Jews live — said he and his wife were the only Jews in the room Monday night voting for Dean, the former Vermont governor who was the early Democratic front-runner in Iowa.

“I was absolutely shocked,” Koslow said. “The Jewish vote went so completely to Kerry, from what I could ascertain. He made a strong impression.”

An evening for Jewish voters that Koslow hosted last week with Rep. Jan Schakowsky, a Jewish Democrat from neighboring Illinois, attracted far fewer people than expected.

“I expected 100; about 45 came,” he said. “About a quarter of those were people who supported other candidates and who were upset at Dean’s perceived positions on Israel.”

Dean once called for the United States to take an “even-handed” policy in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and once referred to Hamas terrorists as “soldiers.”

Dean says he now regrets using the term “even-handed,” explaining that he simply had wanted to advocate greater U.S. involvement in the Middle East. He also says he used the term “soldiers” to justify Israel’s right to target Hamas leaders for assassination.

Schakowsky and Dean’s spokesman, Matt Dorf, made those points at the meeting in Iowa, but it didn’t help much on Monday night.

Israel played a role in her decision to back Kerry, but Lipsman said the bottom line for her, as for many Iowa Democrats, was that she believed Kerry’s extensive Senate experience and his background as a Vietnam War hero made him the best Democrat to challenge President Bush.

“Bottom line: He’s the one who can be elected in November,” she said.

Kerry told the crowd how he had shouted “Am Yisrael Chai” from atop Masada, and he was the only one of the three to invoke the Holocaust, when he called for more thoughtful U.S. involvement in human-rights issues.

Such particulars — and Kerry’s animated delivery — registered with the crowd.

“John Kerry has been to Masada,” David Moskowitz said at the synagogue event. “He knows the issues.”

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