A day after Israel’s leader literally drew a red line over Iranian’s nuclear program, Vice president Joe Biden travelled to the heart of South Florida’s politically active Jewish community and found the views about the presidential race largely unchanged.
The Democrats are voting for the Democrat. The Republicans side with the Republican.
And few Jewish voters – who tend to be overwhelmingly Democratic -- in Boca Raton’s Century Village made any mention of at all of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s United Nation’s speech when he held up a pictogram of a mock-Iranian atomic bomb and drew a red line through it.
“Netanyahu was speaking to the converted to the degree he was being political at all,” said Ken Werden, a 73-year-old resident of the mammoth retirement community.
“Jewish voters back Obama because, historically, we didn’t see Republicans as friends of the Jewish community, especially when it comes to civil rights or Medicare.”
Werden, though, acknowledges he’s a minority of sorts: An Orthodox Jewish voter who’s siding with President Obama.
“For many Orthodox, the number one issue is Israel,” Werden said.
That was clear across the street at the Orthodox Chabad Weltman Synagogue, where congregants feel that President Obama hasn’t been tough enough on Iranian leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
“Obama is courting Ahmadinejad; he’s not standing up to him,” said Simon Mizrachi, a Republican member of the synagogue.
Still, Mizrachi conceded, the Jewish vote will overwhelmingly break for Obama.
“I hope not,” his wife, Caroline Mizrachi, chimed in. She said she voted as a Democrat for Obama in 2008. But like her husband, Mizrachi said she’ll vote for Mitt Romney now.
“I’m disappointed in the position Obama has taken on Netanyahu and Israel,” she said. “And the economy really hasn’t felt like it has improved.”
For years, Republicans have tried to make inroads into the Jewish community and have met with limited support. They’re still trying.
One Republican group is running an ad in Florida featuring Netanyahu expressing grave concerns over Iran’s nuclear program. Another group has erected billboards along Florida’s Turnpike that says “Barack Obama… Oy Vey!” And the Republican Party of Florida is sending Jewish voters mailers that feature Mitt Romney praying at the Western Wall.
A survey last week of Florida Jewish voters, conducted by the American Jewish Committee, showed Obama winning 69 percent of the vote compared to 25 percent who sided with Republican Mitt Romney’s ticket.
Though strong, however, Obama’s Jewish support may be lower now than it was in 2008, when he won 76 percent of the Florida Jewish vote, according to the American Jewish Committee.
The survey found that 51 percent approved and 36 percent disapproved of the way President Obama is handling the Iranian nuclear program. And 79 percent said they’re “very concerned” over the situation with Iran.
Jewish voters favored Biden as Obama’s running mate, with 76 percent supporting and 14 percent disapproving his selection. Romney’s selection of Congressman Paul Ryan was far less popular: 30 percent approved and 59 percent disapproved.
Ryan’s one-time proposals to trim back Medicare and eventually transform the program into a voucher-like system that subsidizes private health insurance is highly unpopular among Democrats.
Ryan has promoted a number of revised plans and most note that current seniors’ Medicare benefits wouldn’t be affected at all.
But that’s not a persuasive argument for voters like Martin Whitelaw, a 67-year-old Century Village Democrat.
“I’m thinking about the next generation and what they’ll have. And they should get the Medicare I get,” Whitelaw said.
“I’m not voting over Israel,” he said. “I’m voting over Medicare.”