Jews Outperform Others in Democratic Party’s Base
Photo Credit: Ron Sachs
American Jews remained disproportionately loyal to the Democratic Party’s nominee for president this year, according to exit polling data, when compared with other base-party constituency groups.
Among African-Americans, Latinos, union households and young voters, Hillary Clinton underperformed President Barack Obama in 2012 by 5 to 6 percentage points. Some 88 percent of African-Americans voters supported Clinton compared to the 93 percent that Obama received in 2012. That trend held true among Hispanics and young people as well. Despite Trump’s promises to build a wall along the Mexican border and deport undocumented immigrants, 29 percent of Hispanics supported him, two points higher than the 27 percent Romney got in 2012, while support for the Democratic candidate dropped from the 71 percent Obama had received to 65 percent for Clinton.
Young voters, who gave Obama 60 percent of their vote, came out in smaller numbers this year, and only 54 percent support Clinton.
However, among Jewish voters, Clinton managed to maintain, but also slightly increase her share of the vote — 71 percent compared with 69 percent for Obama — while the number of Jewish voters supporting Donald Trump (24 percent) was significantly less than the 31 percent Mitt Romney received in 2012, according to exit poll data collected by Edison Research for the National Election Pool.
Both campaigns invested in outreach to Jewish voters in the last month of the presidential election. Trump appointed a Jewish outreach director to campaign for him in the Jewish community and sent his daughter, Ivanka Trump, for a campaign event at The Shul in South Florida. The Clinton campaign deployed President Bill Clinton and Senator Joe Lieberman to campaign on Hillary’s behalf.
But while the Clinton campaign had the help of the National Jewish Democratic Council (NJDC), whose newly-created super PAC “Jews for Progress” mounted a million dollar campaign in five battleground states, the Trump campaign received minimal assistance from the Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC).
In a conference call with reporters on Wednesday, RJC executive director Matt Brooks explained that the decision to lay low in its support of the Republican nominee was strategic. “When this was a race about Donald Trump, Donald Trump was losing, when this was a race about Hillary Clinton, Hillary Clinton was losing,” Brooks asserted. “And so everything we did, all of our messaging was designed to get a message out about Hillary Clinton. The favorability numbers for Donald Trump were pretty bad in the Jewish community, and of those people who had a favorable impression of Trump, a lot of them were already voting for him. So to be waving a banner which by definition was going to repel a lot of the persuadable voters that we were trying to reach, we felt that was strategically and tactically counterproductive.”
Brooks conceded that he was “disappointed” that the Republican Party failed to increase its support among Jewish voters, but pointed out that “the dire predictions” that Trump would get the lowest share ever in the history of the Jewish vote “never materialized.”
“Trump, next to Mitt Romney, has gotten the second highest total in the last 30 years of any Republican candidate,” Brooks stressed. “Having the second best performance of any Republican in the last 30 years is a good indicator of the foundation for building forward.”
Nonetheless, Trump’s margin of victory in the state of Florida shows that the Jewish vote had no impact on the outcome, whereas if Clinton were to increase her support among other base-party groups, the Jewish vote could’ve played a decisive force in flipping the state for Clinton the way it helped Obama win in 2012.
“The first difference is that we were proud to stand with Hillary Clinton,” Democratic consultant Aaron Keyak told Jewish Insider on Wednesday. “We were proud to fight for one of the most qualified and experienced presidential candidates in our history. We were proud to fight against the bigotry, hatred, xenophobia and anti-Semitism, while the other side was basically silent on Trump and his offensive campaign.”
According to Keyak, “All of the attempts by Trump and his supporters to reach out to the Jewish community amounted to a seven point drop among Jewish voters compared to the last GOP nominee. We would have traded every single Jewish vote and given away every single dollar of our campaign budget if it somehow, in some alternate universe, it could change Tuesday’s results. But we can’t.”
An internal poll conducted over several weeks in August and September showed that Clinton was underperforming among Jewish voters, even when compared to President Obama’s level of support in 2012.
Modeled after NJDC’s successful 2012 campaign called “The Hub,” leaders of the Democratic Jewish community founded the “Jews for Progress” super PAC to overcome the deficit. Leading the effort were former Congressmen Ron Klein and Robert Wexler; Michael Adler, a Florida developer and a member of the NJDC’s Executive Committee; Marc Stanley, Congresswoman Wasserman Schultz’s top fundraiser Steve Paikowsky, and veteran fundraiser Fran Katz Watson, while Bluelight Strategies, headed by Steve Rabinowitz and Aaron Keyak, handled the day to day operations.
Headquartered out of a boutique consulting firm based in Washington, D.C., the new 2016 campaign for the Jewish vote was run in a nondescript office in Woodley Park. As the 24/7 cable news cycle obsessed with the latest controversy of the day – from emails to tax returns and debate performances – the team of veterans of the Jewish vote wars concentrated on targeting undecided and persuadable Jewish voters, mostly in Florida.
Their activities included direct mail, robo-calls, opinion articles, newspaper ads, rapid response and videos targeting over 100,000 Jewish households, just in Florida.
One video featured quotes by former President Shimon Peres, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, former Prime Minister and Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Knesset Member and former Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and Senator John McCain, praising Clinton. Another video, shared via email and on social media, featured former Senator and vice presidential candidate Joe Lieberman, titled “What would Joe (Lieberman) Do?” The final video featured five current and former South Florida Jewish Congressmembers reading from the same script and urging voters to go out to vote.
According to an exit poll, conducted by Jim Gerstein from GBA Strategies and sponsored by J Street, 68 percent of Florida Jews voted for Clinton, the same amount of support President Obama got in 2012.
The poll also found that of the one-third of repsondents said they had seen pro-Clinton advertising on Israel or Iran, 22 percent reported the advertising had made them more likely to support Clinton.
“The election result is what it is,” Keyak said. “However, while we underperformed among other top Democratic base constituencies when compared to President Obama’s reelection – including among African-Americans, Latinos, and union households – the strong Jewish vote was a thin ray of light for an otherwise dark night.”