Florida GOP Jews Seen Up In Air As Gingrich Surges

Israel, Iran key issues in advance of next week’s crucial primary.

01/24/12
Staff Writer
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More than 500 Jewish Republicans have signed up to hear Newt Gingrich Friday in Delray Beach, Fla., as they seek to make up their minds ahead of Tuesday’s Florida Republican presidential primary.

“This is our coming out,” said Sid Dinerstein, chairman of the West Palm Beach Republican Party. “We’ve never had 500 of us in the same place. We are getting noisy and don’t care so much anymore that the liberals won’t be our friends unless we sell out our grandchildren and Israel.”

Dinerstein declined to say whom he is supporting in Tuesday’s election, except to say: “So long as the next president is not Ron Paul or Barack Obama, Israel will be the winner.”

He said Ron Paul is in the state to take part in televised debates but little else because he has little chance of winning. Florida is the only state in the nation in which the winner walks off with all of the state’s 50 delegates; the other states award delegates proportionately based on their primary vote.

The most recent poll puts Gingrich ahead in Florida by 9 percent, but it was taken before Monday night’s debate and before Mitt Romney, Gingrich’s chief Republican opponent, released his tax returns. They showed that he had income in the last two years of more than $42 million and paid $6.2 million in taxes at an effective rate averaging 14 percent.

The Republican Jewish Coalition is putting together Friday’s event and another one Thursday for Romney in which John Bolton, a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, will stand in for Romney.

Tuesday’s primary voting is open only to registered Republicans, unlike the previous primary voting in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina. Florida is also the largest of the states to hold a Republican primary thus far, and it has the largest number of Jews.

“It’s hard to tell who Jewish Republicans are going to support in the primary,” said Larry Levy, executive director of the National Center for Suburban Studies at Hofstra University on Long Island. “I doubt they will be comfortable with [Rick] Santorum because they have not had a lot of experience with him. Gingrich is probably going to be very appealing because Orthodox Jews have known him a long time and know his support for the Israel has deep roots. When he had the powerful position as speaker of the House, Congress was very hawkishly supportive of Israel.”

Romney, on the other hand, “is a bit of a wild card,” Levy said. “He makes many moderate Republicans comfortable and the party establishment comfortable, but most Jews whose primary political interest revolves around Israel don’t know much about him.”

But Herb London, a former Republican candidate for mayor of New York City, said he continues to believe that Romney is “the frontrunner and that he will get the nomination. … The newspapers want a race and are doing all in their power to have one. Gingrich had a significant victory Tuesday [in South Carolina], but that is not sustainable elsewhere.”

He said Santorum is staying in the race in the event “someone stumbles.”

“If you are still in the race, you might be the beneficiary of another’s weakness,” London said. “But if he does not do well in Florida, it’s over for him. And the only reason why Paul is still in the race is to influence some delegates and the platform. He can’t possibly win.”

Asked his assessment of Gingrich, London said: “There are too many problems associated with him and he may step on a verbal land mine — say something that is outlandish and foolish.”

Although Gingrich’s debate performances have been good, London said the public wants more than that.

“If that was all that is needed, William Buckley should have been president,” he said. “And just because someone is a good debater, it doesn’t mean he has the managerial skills needed to be president.”

But investor Lawrence Kadish of Westbury, L.I., said he is still convinced Gingrich is the best man for the White House.

“The Jewish people — if they were paying attention — should look at the record he has of solid support for Israel,” he said. “And he has made a commitment that if he becomes president, the American Embassy would be moved to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv.”

Gingrich has also said, controversially, that the Palestinians are “an invented people.”

Romney, on the other hand, has been quoted as saying that he would consult with Israel before considering moving the embassy. And he has reportedly said he would be “open to examining the issue” of releasing Jonathan Pollard, who has already served 25 years in prison after pleading guilty to spying for Israel.

Kadish said that although Gingrich has not addressed the Pollard issue, “there are rumors that if he is elected president, [Pollard] will be taken care of. I’m hearing from people that they expect that to happen.”

Asked about the other candidates regarding their views on Israel, Kadish said that aside from Paul, who wants to end all foreign aid and pursue a largely isolationist foreign policy, “the other candidates are OK but it is just abstract. With Gingrich, it is commitments. In his belly he is going to do [what is right in relation to Israel] and he understands. That’s why [Jewish] people like [casino mogul] Shelly Adelson [and his wife Miriam] are doing good things for him.”

He was referring to the $5 million that Adelson and his wife each gave to a super PAC in support of Gingrich.

“We need a hard guy for hard times,” Kadish added. “America and Israel are in danger and people who give real thought to this understand that Gingrich is the best man to get our country straightened out and protect our allies. The Jewish community has to understand where its friends are, and they are in the Evangelical community.”

But Ari Berman, a political writer for the left-wing Nation, who has been covering the Republican primaries, said he sees little difference between Romney and Gingrich on Israel.

“Both say they are better on Israel than Obama, and they have both gone out of their way to be incredibly pro-Netanyahu,” he said, referring to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“My view is that Obama is not trying to be reflexively pro-Netanyahu but to have more of a pro-peace position,” Berman said. “But he has defended Israel, most recently at the United Nations, and he doesn’t want much daylight between his administration and Netanyahu going into the general election. 

“It’s not just about Israel but Iran too, and both Romney and Gingrich say that Iran poses an existential threat to Israel and that Obama is underplaying the threat. That is the key wedge issue in the Jewish community now — not so much between the Republicans but between the Republicans and Obama.”

Nevertheless, Berman said he believes only a small number of Jews will be voting against Obama in the general election.

Four years ago, Obama received 78 percent of the Jewish vote.

But many Republican Jews in Florida believe they have a chance to cut into Obama’s Jewish vote this year. Fred Karlinsky, a Tallahassee lawyer, predicted, “A number of Democrats will cross over to the Republican ticket because they are unhappy with the positions the president has taken. For the first time in their lives, they will be voting Republican because the president made promises on the economy that have not come true.”

Mel Sembler of St. Petersburg, a former U.S. ambassador to Italy, said he backed Romney in his presidential bid in 2007 and is supporting him again this year.

“Jews say they have had it with Obama, and Israel is usually the first, second or third reason why,” he said. “Sometimes it is the economy … but there will be a movement in the Jewish community away from Obama.”

Should Gingrich win Tuesday’s primary, it would give his candidacy a significant boost, generating enough momentum and money to help him build the truly national campaign he has lacked so far.

“It won’t be a knockout punch, but victories in South Carolina and Florida would be extremely significant,” explained Larry Epstein, a political analyst and former adviser to two Republican congressmen.

On the other hand, he said, a Gingrich win in Florida would cause other “Republican candidates to have a collective nervous breakdown, because his unfavorable ratings are so high”—nearly 60 percent in some polls—that they fear he would bring down the entire Republican ticket.  

Last Update:

01/30/2012 - 05:58

Comment Guidelines

The Jewish Week feels comments create a valuable conversation and wants to feature your thoughts on our website. To make everyone feel welcome, we won't publish comments that are profane, irrelevant, promotional or make personal attacks.

There is so much going on in this election that everyone really needs to keep up because if they blink even once they might end up missing something very important. Tuesday will be real interesting.

There is a photographer, in possession of a photograph of the charming Mrs. Gingrich signing a Modern Art Music Movement Postcard that reads, "Crackhead Jesus is coming (& he doesn't pull out) on stage at a Republican Jewish Coalition, Newt Gingrich Rally, Delray Beach, Florida. Some moments in life are priceless.

The election is about standing squarely on our own two feet. If the President will stand with us and commit to support Israel then he will earn the Jewish vote. If the President doesnot stand with us he will be replaced with Romney. He must send in the drones and hit every nuke facility in Iran.

I think it is time for President Obama to show his true self. I think he should start the conversation about moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem. Obama is a friend of Israel. Obama is a man of peace. Obama has courage. Refusing to move the US Embassy to Jerusalem isn't part of the Democratic platform. I didn't know how important this issue seems to be to people who care. I think he should start talking about it. I think this is called "pulling the fangs..." ?

I implore the few good men and women from this party to stand up and say I am fighting for Americans’; I am not going to Kill anymore seniors or the dreams of hard working American families. There is nothing stopping you from holding to your free speech and talking about the values you care so much for but, it cannot come at the expense of killing the dreams for so many hard working Americans.
These GOP good men and women must say I will not wear the cowardly vest of suicide bombers.
These GOP men and women are obligated to work for all Americans and if it’s their desire for them to sway many toward their heartfelt beliefs there is nothing preventing them from doing so.

The line of hate is very thin with this group, the line of divisiveness very visible and they are fools to think that the greater American public doesn’t see it. It is Un-American to demise at every turn what can benefit America. It is treasons’ to kill your own soldiers in war. The GOP should take notice that the American people will see it as the same thing when you would prefer to sink this President at the pearl of the American people, most of which are doing the right thing, working hard, earning less to do so, paying higher tax rates the top 1 percent. And so many more trying to find jobs, work, to earn their American Dreams but it is made harder by the actions of many in the GOP.

Willard (Mitt) Romney does not know what he is talking about! Exactly like Obama had stated in the State of the Union speech. Romney, hides truth, does not disclose he’s years at Bain, nor his complete tax record. What is he hiding? The facts, that he created jobs in other countries at the expense of the U.S. He did so for his own selfish profits as I am also sure he did so with subsidies from the Federal Government, which he has used for his, again self-interest. Romney like the other clowns packing the GOP clown car do not have all Americans’ interest.

Mr. Ari Berman gets it absolutely right. This has never been about Obama's support for Israel but rather about Obama's support for Netanyahu. If Jews can't tell the difference we have a bigger problem than who to vote for.

Romney will never hold up in debates with O Case in point the debate in Iowa with a statement in his book book with Rick Perry. The statement was unimportant it was how he gave his answer by saying "I'll bet you $10,000 dollars" How childish was that?

I understand we have a close relationship with Israel and I don't want that to change, but I really wish we can put America first. As far as I am concerned whatever is better for America should be priority, not whatever is better for Israel. Im Italian/American but if it came down to it I wouldn't care what our policy is regarding Italy because I am an American now.

I wish my fellow Jews would not be so dismissive of Paul... I think how he wants Israel to be more self-reliant and take control of her own foreign policy is refreshing and well overdue. I wonder if those that oppose him have actually spent much time in Israel and seen that Israel is more than capable of her own governance and foreign relations.

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