The Jewish political world is buzzing ...well, it's a pretty quiet buzz, more like a murmur ... about the New Yorker profile of former Arkansas governor, Fox news commentator and 2012 GOP presidential Wannabee Mike Huckabee.
Huck manages to get in his reputed appeal to Jewish voters in the second paragraph of the story (the New Yorker has really long paragraphs), saying “I worship a Jew! I have a lot of Jewish friends, and they’re kind of, like, ‘You evangelicals love Israel more than we do.’ I’m, like, ‘Do you not get it? If there weren’t a Jewish faith, there wouldn’t be a Christian faith!’ ”
Is this guy for real? He talks like he's taking speech lessons from teenagers at my local mall.
Writer Ariel Levy goes on: “In recent weeks, Huckabee has defended the Israeli attack on a Turkish flotilla headed for Gaza, in which nine people were killed. He does not support a two-state solution, or, at least, as he told numerous reporters in the course of the trip, 'not on the same piece of real estate'—which is to say he thinks that coming up with a place for the Palestinians ought to be an Arab problem. In fact, Huckabee does not believe that Palestinian is a legitimate nationality. 'I have to be careful saying this, because people get really upset—there’s really no such thing as a Palestinian,' Huckabee told a rabbi in Wellesley.”
Cool; no Palestinian state, no Palestinians, even. Bet that's going to win him a boatload of Jewish votes outside ZOA circles.
Look, this scenario is as predictable as hot weather in summertime Washington.
There's little doubt President Obama has lost a lot of his luster among the 78 percent of American Jews who voted for him in 2008. His leadership on the perilous economy has been weak, his response to the BP oil disaster has been sluggish and insufficient, his Middle East policy seems ...well, confused. I don't believe he is anti-Israel, but I also don't see that he has a clue how to implement his agenda in the region. To liberals – including many Jewish voters – he looks like the same old same old, with Wall Street calling the tune and the President doing the dance.
A moderate Republican who thinks Israel is great and who won't turn off Jewish voters on domestic matters could reap some handsome benefits from that disillusionment.
But Huckabee? Give me a break.
Huck will talk a lot about Israel, and he'll raise a significant amount of campaign cash from ardently pro-Israel campaign givers.
His talk will generate stories in the conservative press about how Jews are about to make the great leap away from the Democrats that they've been predicting since Nixon was in the White House, or maybe Abe Lincoln. There will be buzz with a capital “B.”
But in the GOP primaries, chances are good a strong majority of Jewish Republicans will opt for more pragmatic, centrist candidates who seem better positioned to actually win the presidency as well as garner more Jewish votes – former Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney is the current bet among political handicappers.
If Huckabee ends up the nominee, it's hard to see much of a shift in Jewish voting.
The reason, of course, is that most Jews don't vote based on the Israel factor unless they see a candidate as particularly onerous on the issue. There's little doubt more and more Jews think Obama's doing a lousy job in the Middle East; if past patterns are any indication, there's no sign they're likely as a result to vote for a conservative Republican.
On the domestic issues that are predominant in the priorities of most Jewish voters, Huck, with his strong Christian right leanings, will be a huge turnoff to many Jewish voters.
Yes, he would undoubtedly do well with the Orthodox minority; in today's climate, almost any Republican will score big with that faction, the most Israel-focused part of the Jewish community and the group least likely to be worried by very conservative domestic positions, especially on church-state matters. Yes, against Obama, Huck could get a good turnout from Jews whose political decision making starts and ends with Israel.
But that's still a minority of the Jewish electorate, as we've seen in so many recent presidential elections; if it wasn't, Sen. John McCain would have walloped Obama among Jewish voters in 2008.
I suspect Huck knows that; what he's after is Jewish campaign money, and on that front all his early talk about his Jewish friends and his love for Israel, right-wing style, may pay important dividends.
But Jewish voters? We've heard this too many times in the past to believe it.
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