Florida is home to one of the largest Jewish demographics in the United States. In fact, the Sunshine State falls behind only New York, California, and of course, Israel, when it comes to the world's Jewish population centers.
What's more, Jews overwhelmingly vote Democratic -- and more so than any other demographic to date -- even though liberalism seems, at first glance, incompatible with Jewish ideals and values.
To illustrate just how strong Jewish support for Democrats is, take into account that Obama, arguably the least Israel-friendly U.S. president to date, garnered a staggering 78 percent of the Jewish vote. Not even Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who many view as liberal, could capture the hearts and minds of most Jewish voters. But recent polling data in the key swing state could suggest trouble -- at least a modicum of it -- is on the horizon for Obama where his Jewish support is concerned.
According to the Boston Globe, Jewish political activists and demographers posit that the president could lose anywhere from 3 to low-double-digits percentage points in the upcoming election. While this number may not seem significant, the Jews constitute a roughly 4 percent of the state’s population yet typically account for between 5 and 6 percent of voters in Florida.
Indeed, "a small shift in the Jewish vote can make a difference,” Ira Sheskin, a University of Miami professor and director of its Jewish Demography Project told the Globe.
While the economy remains the primary concern of Jewish voters, according to surveys, and Obama will likely assail Romney over Medicare because he is weak on Israel, Rep. Paul Ryan might assuage Jewish voters' concerns on both the economic and entitlement-front.
The Globe continues:
Any significant erosion of Obama’s support among the 639,000 Jews who live in Florida would have an outsize impact because their turnout could be near or more than 90 percent, Sheskin said. And any shift in Florida, as political analysts quickly point out, can be golden. In 2000, the state — and the presidency — were decided by a bitterly disputed margin of 537 votes that propelled George W. Bush to victory over Al Gore. [...]
But even if a shift is fairly small, the reliability of the Jewish vote seems less ironclad. For example, the co-founder of a pro-Obama super-PAC estimated that 15 percent of Jewish voters who backed Obama in 2008 are reconsidering their support.
“We have had to spend much more time than we did in ’08, talking to people whom I would call the base of the Democratic Party, to get them reengaged,” said Mik Moore, co-founder of the super PAC Jewish Council for Education and Research.
Moore added that Romney's expenditures in Jewish-outreach seem to be working. “They have been so narrow in their pitch, so focused on issues such as Israel.”
And while Democratic stalwarts in the state, like Debbie Wasserman Schultz, are on the offensive, even Rabbis at traditionally liberal Jewish congregations admit that there is a shift in the atmosphere. The Globe continues:
“In my congregation, there’s still lots of support for Obama,” said Rabbi Barry Silver, who leads a reform synagogue in Lake Worth, Fla., just south of West Palm Beach. “However, since the last election, I have noticed Obama’s support slipping across all denominational lines.”
Part of that erosion is because of the economy, Silver said, but part is also because of Israel. In the rabbi’s view, that concern has been exploited and inflamed by Romney and the Republicans.
“Obama’s position on Israel has been misrepresented by conservatives who are trying to distort the truth,” said Silver, who organized a debate titled “Obama and Israel: Friend or Foe” that turned raucous at his synagogue in May.
Oddly, Silver condemns Republicans for being "intolerant of anyone that they perceived as not sufficiently pro-Israel."
Despite the consensus that President Obama will surely lose up to several percentage points when it comes to the Jewish vote this election, one thing is certain: he will still garner the majority of their vote.