It began like a hailstorm and hasn't let up.
First, spirited sniping over
Both sides have a dual mission: winning over Jewish voters in Broward and Palm Beach counties — and scaring them away from the other guy. With the contest for the state's 29 electoral votes exceedingly close, there's little chance either side will stand down before Election Day.
The effort is so important to the Obama campaign that
"If you look at the Jewish community, nationwide and in Florida, it is still very much pro-Obama, pro-Democratic," Lew said in an interview.
On Thursday, former U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman, R-Minn., headlined Jewish Americans for Romney events at a condo community, a synagogue and a bagel shop. Then he headed to faceoff with former state Sen.
"I can't tell you we're going to win a majority of the Jewish vote, but I can guarantee you Barack Obama's not getting [his 2008 total of] 78 percent of the Jewish vote this time around," Coleman said in an interview.
The back and forth between Obama and Romney on Israel, and subsequent spinning from their surrogates, shows the intensity of the efforts. The Jewish vote in South Florida is "absolutely critical," Coleman said.
Jewish voters have gone 3:1 for the Democratic presidential candidate for the past four decades. Though Jews make up 3.4 percent of the Florida population, according to estimates by Ira Sheskin, a geography professor and director of the University of
With a tight race, a small shift away from the
Edith Klein, who lives west of Boca Raton, said she was a liberal Democrat as a young woman. Now 75, she's a Republican.
"I can't believe that any Jewish voter would vote for Obama after what's been going on here," she said. "They are Roosevelt Democrats from way back. They have always been Democrats and they just can't break away." She termed him a failure on the economy and foreign affairs.
Ruth Weinstein, 94, a Democrat who lives in
Republicans have been attempting to sow doubts about Obama's support for Israel, and declarations of support for the country have become a litmus test for the 2012 campaign. At the Monday night debate, Obama mentioned Israel 17 times and Romney 14 times — plus three mentions from moderator
Democrats and Republicans view Obama's record on Israel completely differently: Republicans complain he hasn't visited Israel as president; Democrats say only two presidents have visited Israel in their first terms, one for a funeral. Lew said it's "a silly question. It's a question that's asked by people who want to create a sense that you can't trust a person."
Democrats argue that Jewish voters care about many issues besides Israel. Obama's stands on social issues are much more in line with most Jewish voters than Romney's, Lew said.
Coleman said social issues aren't what matter most to everyday Americans. The continuing poor economy under Obama will trump those questions, prompting Jewish voters to go for Romney, he said.
Alvin Schwartz, 86, of
"I've been voting Democratic since my father told me," he said. "I believe that President Obama will be closer to Israel than Mitt Romney will be. But let's remember: We're talking politics. They'll say anything to get elected."
Obama and Romney supporters on the South Florida campaign trail at SunSentinel.com/BrowardPolitics.