Political Post Mortem Part II


**I should call this part III — the real Part II was my story yesterday, which covers:

–Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu‘s apparently triumphalist take on the GOP sweep, and how it amps up his Iran rhetoric;

–Florida Sen.-elect Marco Rubio (R) visits Israel;

–Exit polls show Jews still heart Democrats, albeit with misgivings about President Obama.

Let me also consolidate in a sentence or two what I wrote in my earlier post mortem: The attacks on Democrats by the Republican Jewish Coalition and the Emergency Committee for Israel had zip effect, zero, zilch.

The exits show Dems down from where they were in 2008, when Obama took 78 percent of the vote — but ticking upwards from the polls taken before the onslaught of ECI and RJC attacks. (I’m not saying the RJC and ECI blitzes were counterproductive — too much goes into a vote to draw that conclusion — but if one is going to use polling to draw a simplistic conclusion about a campaign, the only available simplistic conclusion here is that  the negative campaigning made things worse for conservatives.) UPDATE: ECI’s Noah Pollak called and makes the legitimate point that their advertising was not aimed only at Jews, but at the much broader pro-Israel voter community. Can’t argue the point: The group was significantly co-founded by William Kristol (Jewish) and Gary Bauer (Christian) in part to make precisely that ecumenical point.

In other words, Jewish support for Democrats still substantially outpaces the general population; and it’s dropped, commensurately as it has dropped with the general population, and likely for the same reason: The economy, stupid.

Randy Altschuler (R) is alive in NY 1, where he is challenging Rep. Tim Bishop (D-N.Y.), in the Long Island district. Neither side is declaring victory, but we’re definitely into recount territory. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) is definitely back for a third term.

David Cicilline, the first Rhode Islander elected to federal office, is also the third openly Jewish gay male in Congress — and the third openly gay male, period.

–Statewide winners include Sam Olens (Georgia, Republican, attorney general), Josh Mandel (Ohio, Republican, treasurer), Tom Horne (Arizona, Republican, A-G) and Steve Grossman (Massachusetts, Democrat, treasurer.) Mandel and Grossman have established Iran sanctions credentials and are now in a position to enforce them.

**In this thoughtful piece in the Atlanta Journal Constitution, Olens talks about the hits he said he took as a Jew during the campaign:

“There were whisper campaigns — big-time in the primary. I would walk into rooms and people would overtly comment about my religion to me,” Olens said. “But I think the nice thing is the number of folks who did that was very, very few.”

Reference to his New Jersey upbringing became “a code word,” he said.

Olens also had a dust-up with primary opponent Max Wood, a former federal prosecutor from Macon, over a TV ad in which the former Cobb chairman touted his defense of prayers that opened County Commission meetings.

Wood vociferously denied that he was attempting to draw attention to Olens’ religion. “He used an invocation, which is supposed to be a holy moment, as a political tool to ingratiate himself,” Wood said back in July.

Heath Garrett, who directed much of Olens’ campaign, acknowledged on Friday that the 30-second spot was intended to underline the “core values” that Olens shared with Christian voters in Georgia.

Also, a fascinating tidbit: The first Jewish U.S. governor likely was David Emanuel, of Georgia, at the dawn of the 19th century.

The AJC mentions in passing Jay Dardenne, Louisiana’s Lt.-Gov.-elect, as another statewide GOP Jewish win. Dardenne is currently the state’s secretary of state. All I can track about Dardenne is that he attends B’nai Israel in Baton Rouge. Considering my troubles last week in classifying Nan Hayworth (who is Lutheran, but attends a synagogue) I’m holding back on this one for the time being.

**The Orthodox Union breaks down the races wear the Orthodox had influence as a voting bloc.

**The Cleveland Jewish News analyzes the impact of the GOP sweep of state races on Jewish issues (toward the end of the roundup). Alluded to is that Eric Brown, Ohio’s Jewish Chief Justice and a Democrat, lost his bid for election to the post. (He was appointed earlier this year.) I interviewed him here.

**The Philadelphia Jewish Exponent assesses the effect of the election of Pat Toomey (R) as U.S. senator on Jewish community issues.

**Finally, there’s a lot being written about the possible effects on foreign policy of the Republican sweep.

Right now, though, you don’t need to read more than this assessment in Ha’aretz by Lara Friedman, of Americans for Peace Now: It’s the president, stupid.

Congress has a limited effect on foreign policy — but at the end of the day, it’s the White House’s turf.

Lara makes clear what she wants Obama to do, but even if you disagree with her — her assessment that what he does is what determines what happens next is right on the money:

Here is where the conventional wisdom hits a wall, because it is the president, not Congress, who is in charge of conducting U.S. foreign policy. Congress can try to obstruct him – by refusing to fund his priorities or by passing legislation intended to limit his options – and such efforts cannot be discounted. Groups like Americans for Peace Now and J Street will continue to fight them tooth and nail. But ultimately, foreign policy belongs to the president. And this president has a decision to make.

When Obama took office, he articulated a clear commitment to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Regrettably, his efforts faced vigorous pushback. His strategy of trying to convince and cajole the parties into cooperating proved inadequate to the task. As a result, today a credibility problem plagues Obama’s peace efforts: Each of the stakeholders – Israel, the Palestinians, key Arab leaders – doubts the seriousness of Obama’s commitment and doubts his ability to convince the other parties to deliver. It is thus no surprise that none are willing to expend their own political capital.

If President Obama is ready to back his commitment to Middle East peace with the kind of real investment necessary to make the parties play ball, though, a breakthrough is still possible, regardless of any pushback from Congress.

This is not fantasy. President Clinton in the 1990s led a serious Israeli-Palestinian peace effort, and did so despite repeated attempts by Congress to undermine him. And a viable agreement is indeed possible today: Real U.S. leadership that reflects both U.S. national interests and the best interests of both Israel and the Palestinians can be a game-changer.

But Obama’s aspirations can be realized only when the parties know that he means business, that there will be meaningful consequences if they refuse to pursue the goals he has laid out, or if they continue to postpone critical decisions.

Recommended from JTA