A bet that American Jews care about things other than Israel. Republicans “can't talk about gay rights, they can't talk about the environment,” says Harris.
With Republican Jewish groups spending record amounts to help Mitt Romney woo Jewish voters on the subject of Israel, a major Democratic group has focused on keeping Jews in the fold by focusing on another set of issues on which they share more with Obama.
David Harris, the president and CEO of the National Jewish Democratic Council, predicted between 1 million and 1.5 million voter contacts to swing Jewish voters in Florida, Ohio, Colorado, Nevada, Virginia, and Wisconsin. But unlike Republican efforts which focus almost entirely on Israel issues, Harris says Israel is the subject of less than half of the group’s contacts.
“The [Republican Jewish Coalition] and the rest of them can only talk about Israel and only through distortions,” Harris said. “They can’t talk gay rights, they can’t talk the environment. Those are the issues Jewish voters care about.”
The Democratic effort includes direct mail, online ads, and web videos, all targeted at the swath of Jewish voters “who could possibly be swayed by the $10 million campaign of smears and distortion,” Harris said. About 40% of those are on the subject of Israel, he said.
Most Jewish voters don’t rank Israel in the top five issues that decide their vote, Harris maintained, unless a presidential candidate is thought to be rabidly anti-Israel.
“They are trying to move this president towards that place, and that’s ridiculous,” he said of the harsh ads from conservative groups opposing Obama.
One NJDC mailer split-screens a defense of Obama on Israel and an impassioned attack on his Republican challenger on abortion and Obamacare.
“American Jews care a lot about ObamaCare," Harris said. "They are the most pro-choice demographics of any.”
Harris declined to say how much his group has raised for their election push, saying only it was into the seven figures.
“They’re giving out iPads and iTunes gift cards, they are mailing into Pennsylvania,” Harris said, “while we’re engaged in the efficient, strategic targeting of votes.”
“Could we help if we reach the right 20 or 30,000 Jews in Colorado, maybe that keep it for the president — that’s what we’re trying to do.”