— The presidential candidates are far from South Florida, but their campaigns this weekend are all about one of the most coveted groups in this year's election: Jewish voters in Broward and
In ways both large and small, President
The Obama campaign deployed a Jewish state legislator and three rabbis to Boca Raton on Friday to make the case that the president is a friend of
Giuliani took on Obama's most prominent Jewish supporter in Florida, U.S. Rep.
In Washington, Obama signed the U.S.-Israel Enhanced Security Cooperation Act, a law that provides for technical and military assistance, increased joint military exercises, and provides more money for the so-called Iron Dome missile defense shield.
Romney was in London for the opening of the
While Jews make up an estimated 3.5 percent of the Florida population, they vote in greater numbers than most demographic blocs, have always been strongly loyal to the Democratic Party, and polls show a razor-thin margin between Obama and Romney.
That's a good showing, but not good enough. In 2008, he won an estimated 78 percent of the vote among Jews, and he needs something closer to that level of support to win.
Rabbi Kurt Stone of
Rabbi Frederick Greenspahn, who teaches Jewish studies at Florida Atlantic University, said Republicans proclaim each election is finally the one in which Jews will abandon the Democratic Party. "People say the Jewish vote is going to change and time after time after time it goes up and down a couple of points but it does not change dramatically."
Sid Dinerstein, chairman of the Palm Beach County Republican Party, said 2012 is different. "We've never had an anti-Israel president before."
State Rep. Lori Berman, D-Delray Beach, said Obama has increased security spending, defended Israel at the
Giuliani, speaking to about 300 cheering Republicans at Romney's Boca Raton campaign office, countered that Obama's true feelings are revealed by the fact that he hasn't visited Israel since taking office. Democrats point out that Obama visited twice as a senator, and past-first term presidents – including Republicans – haven't visited Israel in their first terms, either.
Former Florida House Majority Leader Adam Hasner of Boca Raton, a Republican congressional candidate, complained Friday that Obama hasn't recognized Jerusalem as Israel's capital city — a move Republican presidents haven't made, either.
While Democrats from Wasserman Schultz on down profess optimism — Berman said "support for President Obama is strong in South Florida" — the Obama camp is clearly concerned. It's made special efforts to reach out to Jewish voters, including personal attention from the top. In March, Vice President
Greenspahn said it would be a mistake to assume Jewish voters make their decisions based primarily on Israel. Obama is in line with most Jews on a host of economic and social issues, he said.
Giuliani's 12-minute indictment of Obama included the economy and the health care overhaul law commonly known as
Koopman, 68, said she was a Democrat and "part of the hippie generation" in her youth. She's now a Republican who will vote for Romney.
She said Republicans have a chance to make inroads with Jewish voters. "There are some who will never change but there are many who are disappointed with his views on Israel."