Can Palin Win Over Jews?

Could Obama’s growing problems with the community translate into popularity
for our least-favorite Sarah? Despite a new website, most experts say no.

04/27/10
Staff Writer
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If you believe the conventional wisdom about the 2008 presidential election, Democratic candidate Sen. Barack Obama was having a very tough time garnering Jewish support before Sen. John McCain picked a running mate. Polls in the Jewish community had Obama getting about 55 percent of the Jewish vote, as much as 20 percentage points lower than John Kerry or Al Gore, the two previous Democratic presidential candidates.

Then McCain tapped a little-known Alaska governor as his vice presidential pick, one who had a habit of dividing the country into East Coast city folk and the so-called real Americans who live in more rural areas.

The Jewish community, it turned out, shuddered. And Obama ended up with 78 percent of the Jewish vote.

A year and a half later, Obama’s popularity with Jewish voters is sinking, and a group of Jewish conservatives is now touting Sarah Palin as the Republicans’ latest best hope to win over Jewish voters.

The big question: Will Obama’s growing problems with the Jewish community translate into popularity for a Republican only recently seen as a poison pill with Jewish voters?

Philadelphia political activist and former Philadelphia Exponent editor Benyamin Korn thinks so. The self-described “Independent” just launched a new website, “Jews for Palin – A Home Page for Jewish Independents,” to galvanize Jewish support based on Palin’s positions on Israel, energy independence and fiscal responsibility and her outspoken advocacy on “family values” issues.

To Korn, a presidential win for Palin would be no different than Ronald Reagan’s rise from “B-list movie-star” to California governor and the presidency, or Margaret Thatcher’s ascendance from grocer’s daughter to prime minister of the United Kingdom. 

Worried by what he views as Obama’s chilly attitude toward Israel and complacency toward Iran, Korn said he was anxious to find someone capable of unseating the president in the next election — and despite the skepticism of numerous political scientists, he believes Palin’s personality and views on U.S.-Israel relations will prove attractive to Jewish voters.

“We are so upset about Obama’s Middle East policy that we’re looking for his biggest opponent — she is the leading voice,” Korn told The Jewish Week. “We have been impressed by Gov. Palin’s brilliance, charisma and courage, and we have supported her and wanted to see her advance since she made her acceptance speech at the Republican nominating convention.”

The site, launched by a team of six, has received over 10,000 hits in its first 11 days of operation, according to Korn. Since its incorporation as an LLC, the organization has received several small contributions along with one major donation.

Many political observers are not all that impressed.

“Anyone can launch a website, and a good deal of the 2012 presidential campaign will be fought on the Internet — this site seems to be an effort in that war,” said Sandy Maisel, a professor of government at Colby College in Maine. “However, Palin will draw little Jewish support — and I think it is noteworthy that none of the groups that they say launched the group have their names listed.”

Korn brushes off this omission, saying that the “the paint is still wet” on a project that was rushed because of his sense of urgency about deteriorating U.S.-Israel relations. He said he will announce an official advisory board in the coming weeks.

“I frankly think that this is a case of a very small group of people who, other than Korn, choose to be unidentified and are trying to sell something that doesn’t sell in the Jewish community,” said Ken Wald, professor of political science at the University of Florida and director of the school’s Center for Jewish Studies.

Wald said there are “any number of standard bearers in the Republican Party” with a better chance of appealing to politically conservative Jews.

Korn insists his motivations stem more from his admiration for Palin than his disdain for the current president’s policies.

“It is more about our support for her, but what has really galvanized us into action has been the extreme nature of Obama’s treatment of Israel,” Korn said, adding that he was angered by the Obama administration’s recent implication that Israel’s intransigence might be putting American lives at risk and outraged by the coldness toward Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during his most recent White House visit. 

“I guess we shouldn’t feel so bad — he gave the Dalai Lama the same treatment,” Korn continued. “The president is more concerned about Jews building apartments in Jerusalem than about Iran’s building nuclear missiles; it was time to act.”

In an opinion column written for JTA, Korn cited World Jewish Congress President Ronald Lauder, ADL National Director Abraham Foxman and former New York City Mayor Ed Koch for their recent criticism of Obama’s Israel policies, using their words to validate his desire to replace Obama with Palin.

While Koch rejects the idea of a Palin presidency, he speaks admiringly of her.

“I’d never vote for her — her politics scare me — but I admire her as a human being,” Koch told The Jewish Week. “She’s a plucky person who speaks out. I think the people who refer to her as stupid are ridiculous. She’s much smarter than they are and I wish her well, but I don’t want her as my president.”

With most conservative contenders taking much the same positions on Israel, Palin’s thin foreign policy credentials could be a major turnoff for voters, said the University of Florida’s Wald. “Her experience is rather laughable; she has about 15 minutes in her. It’s hard for me to understand why someone who has less experience in the Middle East than anybody would be a good choice.”

But Korn maintains that Palin’s brief tenure as governor of Alaska is enough to disprove the conventional wisdom that she lacks the experience to be president.

“If anyone takes an objective look at Gov. Palin’s performance as governor of Alaska, they would understand that it was brilliant,” Korn said, praising her hard-line support for oil drilling. “She only resigned because the tsunami of schmutz that was unleashed against her made it impossible for her to do her job.”

While she lacks foreign policy experience, Korn feels that Jews – particularly the Orthodox — “by and large can relate to Sarah Palin’s social and family values because the Orthodox are intensely family-oriented people,” he said. “So her populism does not alienate them. That does not mean that there is a major swell of support for Palin in the Orthodox community, but we aim to change that.”

But more liberal Jewish voters will generally reject Palin’s social conservatism, many political scientists argue — and some will question the nature of her support for Israel. Palin, who wears her Evangelical Christianity on her sleeve, may be tainted in the minds of some Jewish voters by a Christian Zionist movement steeped in Bible prophecy that predicts wars that will devastate the Jewish state before the return of the Christian Messiah.

“One can certainly question whether or not that’s a pro-Israel stance,” Wald said. “Relying on an Evangelical for support of Israel is lying on a very sharp sword.”

Not surprisingly, Korn disagreed, saying that Maimonides argued that “the advent of the Jewish Messiah is inextricably linked to the return of the Jewish people to the land of Israel,” and that the Evangelical view is no different from this idea.

Whether or not Korn’s pro-Palin effort changes Jewish hearts and minds, it’s clear the former Alaska governor’s early campaign and the effort on her behalf by some conservative Jews will provide some of the best political fireworks in the early phases of Election 2012.

“The Palin phenomenon creates an element of interest and excitement to a campaign season that is so far pretty dull,” said Kean University political scientist Gilbert Kahn. “That said, the likelihood she will catch on with Jewish voters beyond the same small set of followers is very small. Her campaign will lose more than it gains once Jews start dissecting what she really stands for.”

 

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Last Update:

05/12/2010 - 08:34

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I want the American president to serve American interests, not Israel's. Palin would serve neither. Despite all the media attention, Palin is unelectable, so Korn is wasting his time.
I can understand why American Jews, who are generally urban people, would have certain "problems" with Sarah Palin. But such qualms should be fourth or fifth down the list of thresholds. The real issue is why are American Jews, save the Orthodox are so hopelessly, pathetically left of center. Figure that one out. Get me some more Jews who are more centrist, or center-right, and then we can discuss the merits of Sarah Palin versus, say, Mitt Romney, or any one of the fantastic GOP Senators and Congressmen. Steven.Rosenberg@gmail.com
Korn is clearly out of his mind.
George W. Bush was also a "Christian Zionist." Under his presidency, the U.S. embassy remained in Tel Aviv, Pollard remained in prison, and Jews were thrown out of Gaza. Sarah Palin claims to be a Christian Zionist, too. After eight years of Bush, I don't trust Palin.
Wake up! Obama has surrounded himself with the worst group of Israel haters and is using a small cadre of far left to justify his position. He has shown he is willing to sacrifice israel for Arab favor. He needs to be stopped. Palin, or any other Republican candidate is an imperative to stop the onslaught on Israel's existence.
Obama is no friend to Israel. Just look how he treated Netanyahu recently: wouldn't shake his hand, no photo-op, refused dinner with him, etc. Obama is a liar and has not taken any sanctions against Iran. He has refused to deliver 387 buster penetrating bombs to Israel (they're sitting somewhere in the Indian Ocean). Palin has made it very clear that she is pro-Israeli and anti-Iran. She wouldn't just talk but would be taking action by now. The democratic Jews just don't see it. They can't stand an honest, Christian woman with moral who keeps her word and doesn't make empty promises. She doesn't need to be POTUS/VP in 2012; she's financially secure and doesn't need the mess that Obama is going to leave. The Jews just can't see or understand the truth. I'm changing from the democratic to republican party (conservative). The rest of you can go down the tubes. Signed, "The Yid."
“We have been impressed by Gov. Palin’s brilliance, charisma and courage." You've gotta be kidding!
Sarah Palin is a quality person, capable, and a friend of the Jewish people and Israel. The Jewish people better wake up and realize that Obama and his administration are anti-Israel. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is anti-semitic; remember when she embraced Arafat's wife when Clinton was first lady. She is an opportunist who tell the American Jews how much she supports Israel only to deceive the American Jews to support her--she is a fraud. At least Obama and his other administration sychophants up front about his dislike of Israel and the Jews. Liberal American Jews, who I find to be too many of the American Jews and frankly an embarassment, better stop this nonsense of being "Self-hating American Jews"by blindly following the Democrats. American Jews better embrace the Republicans, the Tea Party, and support a true friend of Israel--Sarah Palin. My Christian friends cannot believe how stupid American Jews are to support Obama and his regime despite his disdain for Israel and the Jews. American Jews better get realistic, stop the santimony, and support those who support the Jewish people and Israel like Sarah Palin. Sarah Palin is a quality, intelligent person. She just does not sound like the con-artists in the media that sound smooth, but have no qualms about leading the Jewish people and Israel to a bad situation while speaking slickly. I repeat that Sarah Palin is intelligent. Sarah Palin is a friend of the Jews and Israel. She not a New York, Washington, DC, West Coast phony who speak differently than Sarah Palin, but speak nonsense that includes justification for harming Israel. Enough already for American Jews to be self-hating and lack the decency to realize that Obama and his Democrats have only ill intent toward Israel and the Jewish people. Enough of this disgusting comportment of being self-hating American Jews. G-D bless Sarah Palin and her family. I hope that G-D awakens the American Jews before it is too late. Sarah Palin, not the current Democratic regime, are pro-Israel. If one is so smart, then one will realize who truly is a supporter of Israel--Sarah Palin--and who is not supportive of Israel--Obama and his ilk.
Palin after Obama is going from bad to worse. We are not "chicken little". The vote has power. Let's stop and and clearly think about whom will really serve Israel and the US.

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