Bush Aide Fleischer Courts Jewish Vote for McCain

October 28, 2008

Author: Joel Millman

Source: The Wall Street Journal


Ari Fleischer used to joust daily with skeptical reporters over controversies like the intelligence used to justify the invasion of Iraq. These days, the former White House spokesman has taken on a new challenge: selling John McCain to Jewish voters, who usually vote overwhelmingly Democratic.

While Sen. McCain, the Republican presidential candidate, has slipped in polls nationwide, his backers hope that gains among typically Democratic Jewish voters can make a difference, especially in swing states with large Jewish populations.

Those states include Florida and Pennsylvania, which Mr. Fleischer visited this month as part of a nationwide tour that also included Cleveland and Minneapolis. He is convinced that Republicans' outreach to Jews could pay dividends next week.

"I still think John McCain can win," the 48-year-old former aide to President George W. Bush said after a presentation before a luncheon audience of about 100 Jewish Republicans at a golf course in Las Vegas.

Mr. Fleischer, who is Jewish, sprinkled his speech with terms including "Black Panther," "public assistance" and "commitment to Israel." He was also sending a message: 80,000 Jews in this booming desert city can save five electoral votes in a state once considered reliably Republican, but now rated by political handicappers as a tossup. Nevada Jews also were urged to call family and friends in Florida and the Northeast, and nudge them toward voting Republican.

In late September, the American Jewish Committee, an advocacy group, released a poll that showed Sen. Obama with support from 57% of U.S. Jews. At the same point in 2004 Democratic candidate Sen. John Kerry's campaign, 69% of Jewish voters backed him. Both Democrats and Republicans speculated that Sen. Obama couldn't close the deal with Jewish voters, noting that 13% remained undecided.

But polls released in late October, nationally by Gallup and in Florida by Quinnipiac University, show Sen. Obama matching traditional Democratic strength among Jewish voters. Gallup put the Democrat up 74% to 22% over Sen. McCain. In the Florida poll, Sen. Obama was leading 77% to 20%.