Jewish Voters, Prized in Swing State Florida, Tell What Drives Them

Source: The New York Times


DELRAY BEACH, Fla. — Some pro-Clinton videos circulating in this part of South Florida do not feature Barack Obama, Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren. Instead, the praise comes from Shimon Peres, Henry Kissinger and the son of Yitzhak Rabin.

Republicans are sending around cards showing a glowering Hillary Clinton, an Iranian flag and missiles, and saying: “The Obama/Clinton Iran Deal Puts Israel at Risk and Makes Us Less Safe.”

Then there is the Facebook ad and robocall campaign puckishly titled “WWJD.” It answered the question many Jews here were wondering: What would Joe (as in Lieberman) do?

Both campaigns see a path to victory in Florida, the largest swing state, if they can engage the right demographic groups, from the Cuban refugees in Miami to the rural whites in the panhandle. But one of the most prized groups of voters in the Sunshine State is its hundreds of thousands of Jews, whose interest in the race often goes beyond the usual questions of Hillary Clinton’s judgment or Donald J. Trump’s temperament.

In interviews, Jewish voters here have said their votes were motivated by the same issues that matter to much of the rest of the electorate, such as immigration, the makeup of the Supreme Court and, perhaps more so this year, the character of the candidates.

But layered on top of that are specific concerns over support for Israel; the nuclear arms agreement with Iran, which is unpopular with Jewish conservatives; and unease over anti-Semitism that has surfaced among segments of Mr. Trump’s supporters.

“Trump has become their champion,” said Rabbi Mark Winer, the president of the Florida Democratic Party Caucus of American Jews. “To me, that’s disqualifying in itself.”

At an early-voting site on Friday in Delray Beach, where an almost hourlong line had formed on a sidewalk, Al Drelich showed up in his red “Make America Great Again” cap. He gave his spare hat to a Trump volunteer, and stayed around to talk up Mr. Trump and to debate the many Clinton supporters.

He bristled at the criticism he had heard about Trump supporters, saying they were wrongly maligned as racist. Plus, he seemed to be saying, Jews should know better than to blame anti-Semitism on Mr. Trump.

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