Donald Trump can beat Joe Biden by getting 30-35 percent of the Jewish vote in Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania. And he can get to that number by running on his record of being the “most pro-Israel president ever.” That’s the opinion of Matt Brooks, executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition.
Brooks said the key is for Trump to increase his share of the Jewish vote from one-quarter in 2016 to one-third this year in battleground states where more conservative Jews live, Brooks told the American Jewish Committee on August 24. And Florida results show he can do it.
President Trump will increase his share of the Jewish vote over 2016, I absolutely guarantee that. That’s why the RJC is spending $10 million for the largest outreach effort ever undertaken in the Jewish community…
We don’t need to get a majority of the Jewish vote. There is no question that this election is going to be a nailbiter, it’s going to be an incredibly close election, and… Florida is a terrific test case. Ron DeSantis won the governorship in Florida [in 2018] with 40,000 votes over Andrew Gillum. He also increased his share of the Jewish vote to 35 percent in his election, a shift that was more than enough to give him the margin of victory, and I think the governor even talks about how his increase in the Jewish community and the support that he got was decisive, in him winning the election.
So we’re talking about incremental gains, we’re talking about close elections. There is no doubt in my mind that if President Trump gets 30 or 35 percent of Jewish vote in Florida– and that’s diffeent from the national numbers. Because as we know the national exit polls also poll Los Angeles, they poll in the Upper East Side and Upper West Side of New York where we don’t do very well quite honestly. But in the battleground states that matter, there’s no question that Donald Turmp can get 30 to 35 percent in Florida. And if he does do that in Ohio, if he does do that in Pennsyvlania, he wins all of those states.
It’s impossible for the Democrats to win a close election if we’re getting 30 to 35 percent of the Jewish vote. We saw it with Governor De Santis and I think we’re going to see it again in 2020.
Whether or not you find this calculus convincing (I don’t), it is surely a reason that Joe Biden is running so far right on the Israel question in defiance of his own base. And why he chose an AIPAC hawk in Kamala Harris to be his running mate. He is determined not to be out-Israel’d (not only because of the donors I harp on), but because he thinks Jews could be a possible swing constituency in swing states.
Jews make up 3 percent of the Florida population and Jewish turnout is high, so significant shifts in the Jewish vote could have an effect. Not so many in Pennsylvania (2.3 percent) or Ohio (1.3 percent).
DeSantis hammered on his pro-Israel record in Congress in the 2018 race against Gillum, and soon after getting elected, DeSantis held a cabinet meeting in Israel; the Daytona Beach News-Journal said he did so in part to help Trump. The newspaper says Trump’s assassination of Iranian general Qasem Soleimani in Iraq last January helped him with those voters (a sad reflection on pro-Israel attitudes).
But will Jews flip? Pew’s numbers on the Jewish vote for the Republican in recent presidential elections show some fluctuation.
2000: Bush versus Gore. Bush got 19 percent of Jewish vote.
2004: Bush versus Kerry. 25 (Post Iraq war.)
2008: Obama versus McCain. 21
2012: Barack Obama versus Mitt Romney: 30 (Obama was seen as critical of Israel).
2016: Trump versus Clinton. 24
Brooks is saying that if Obama’s numbers slipped so dramatically from ’08 to ’12 because he had taken on Netanyahu, Joe Biden as Obama’s vice president should inherit that distrust. No wonder Biden’s surrogates say he is the most pro-Israel presidential candidate ever, and forget about Obama.
TheTampa Bay.com says that Trump did better with Florida Jews than he did with Jews nationally in 2016: 27 percent in Florida, 24 percent nationwide.
The problem for Trump is that Jews still vote liberal, and many of them mistrust Trump. Frank Newport of Gallup:
44% of American Jews are liberal, much higher than the overall 25% among the total population, making Jews the most liberal of any major religious group we identify. Another 36% of Jews are moderates, with 20% describing themselves as conservative — compared with 37% of the total population…
Our aggregate from January through August  shows a 29% Trump job approval rating among Jews, with 69% disapproval. Over this same period, Trump’s overall job approval rating was 42%….
Jewish Democrats vote on a lot of issues besides Israel, so liberals like to say, and Newport affirms that.
Trump’s assertion that Jews should in essence be single-issue voters whose presidential vote is directly swayed by his statements about and policies toward Israel is apparently much too simplistic. The majority of American Jews have voted for Democratic presidential candidates for decades and are politically liberal in their views of many domestic issues. Those facts of political life are not going to change overnight.
The consequences of Jews’ majority-level disapproval of President Trump and Jews’ underlying Democratic political orientation is evident in an interesting recent finding reported by Pew Research. Their data showed that 42% of Jews say Trump favors Israel too much —
Still, Brooks’s comments reveal a strategy. It’s no wonder that Jared Kushner just rode an El Al flight from Tel Aviv to the UAE. No wonder that Mike Pompeo addressed the Republican Convention from Jerusalem. Trump needs a royal flush on this issue to win; but he’s faced these odds before.