S.F. Dispatch: JCC goers for Hillary


JTA’s Sue Fishkoff visited the JCC in San Francisco to see what people are thinking about the campaign. Here’s what she found:

The San Francisco Bay area is a hot battleground for the Democratic front-runners in the weeks leading up to the Feb. 5 California primary. In this heavily Democratic state, the Jewish community of this most liberal of California cities – a community that votes, and votes left – will be a plum prize for whichever candidate can snap it up.

Judging from what a dozen voters told JTA on Wednesday night last week at the San Francisco Jewish Community Center, U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) has the decisive edge.

Except for one Republican and one Libertarian, everyone interviewed was a registered Democrat. Two had already voted by mail, and most were firmly in the Clinton camp.

Lisa Mandelstein, 47, was the lone Edwards supporter. “I like his focus on working class Americans and the economics surrounding that, and I feel like keeping some attention on those issues,” she said.

And 45-year-old Andy S., who refused to give his last name, said he’s voting for Obama because of the man more than the message. “He’s potentially a little more honest, a little less political,” he opined.

But it was a Clinton crowd, even if much of the support seemeds tactical. Clinton, several told JTA, is the most electable Democrat, the candidate most likely to snatch the White House out of Republican hands.

“I don’t think Obama can win the November election,” said Stefanie Kohn, 36, who said she hasn’t yet made up her mind, but is “seriously leaning towards” Clinton.

“It’s those swing voters, the middle of the country,” said her sister, Alyson Kohn, 40, in agreement. “Are they really going to vote for a black man?”

Neither candidate excites the Kohn sisters –”they’re not far enough left for me,” Stefanie said – but kicking out the Republicans from the White House is uppermost in their minds.

“Electability is huge,” Stefanie said, adding that Clinton’s experience in “knowing how to work Washington” is also important to her.

That’s what Dan Peshkin, 34, said. He’s backing Clinton because of “her judgement, her experience, and I like her husband, and the people they’ll bring with them.”

The Clintons as a package deal appealed to several voters. “We’ll get Bill again,” Stefanie Kohn enthused.

And while Israel is important to most of these voters, few saw a big enough difference between the Democratic candidates to sway them. Those who did see a difference are choosing Clinton.

“I do think she would provide more security for Israel,” said Lynne August, 57, who added that one of her “great wishes” is “to see a female president in my lifetime.”

“Israel is a very big factor for me,” said 34-year-old Amanda Vassigh, adding that Clinton “is a realist, and she understands the United States has to stand with Israel. And if she wants the Jewish vote, she has to stand with Israel.”

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