New York election: Has Obama lost the Jewish vote?

Republican Bob Turner's win in New York: If Obama has lost the Jewish Democratic vote this could pose a serious problem for 2012. Jewish voters are a key voting block in swing states like Florida and Pennsylvania.

Mary Altaffer/AP
Republican Bob Turner won a special election Tuesday in New York's heavily Democratic 9th Congressional District. Here, Turner supporters in the Flushing neighborhood of New York.

Conservative provocateur Matt Drudge’s headline this morning on the election in NY-9 screamed:

"Revenge of the Jews; Dem Seat Turns in NYC"

It was a fresh headline on this Washington Post article about the Republican win of a long-time Democratic seat in New York.

And in today’s Wall Street Journal, Dan Senor argues that the Democrats’ special-election loss in New York City was a direct rebuke of President Obama’s Israel policy. Senor, who was the Bush administration’s top spokesman in Iraq, analyzes Obama’s “Israel problem” in detail - and concludes that the president is hemorrhaging support among Jewish voters (who broke strongly for him in 2008).

If true, this could pose a serious threat: Jewish voters are a key voting bloc in critical swing states like Florida and Pennsylvania.

But the evidence is hardly clear-cut. Over at CNN’s religion blog, Siena College pollster Steven Greenberg is quoted today as saying that Obama’s recent drop in approval ratings among Jewish voters in NY-9 simply mirrored the drop in approval ratings among Democrats in general.

Jewish voters are no different than all the voters in the district.

And nationally, as recently as last June, Gallup found Jewish voters giving Obama a 60 percent approval rating. Among Jewish Democrats, support was at 83 percent. Notably, those numbers came in the wake of Obama’s May speech declaring that Israel’s 1967 borders should be the starting point for peace negotiations - a speech that drew criticism from some Jewish leaders.

Gallup concluded there was “no evidence” that the policy speech had any significant impact on Jewish voters’ attitudes toward Obama.

This would seem to suggest that Jewish voters - like Democrats overall - may have grown increasingly unhappy with the president after what was an indisputably rough summer (the debt-ceiling debacle, the S&P downgrade, bad jobs reports). But that doesn’t mean Obama has a unique problem with this bloc, or that he won’t necessarily be able to bring them around when the time comes.

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