Republican Jews believe they can sell their party and their
candidate this year on more than just a pro-Israel record.
President Bush's support for Israel is at the heart of Republican courting
of the Jewish vote, but the party also is stressing other facets of Bush's
leadership in the international community.
They're also attacking Bush's opponent, Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), for an
alleged lack of leadership, and - in a change of strategy - are delving
into domestic policy.
With the nation's attention soon to focus on the Republican National
Convention in New York later this month, Jewish Republicans are hoping to
highlight Bush administration actions they think could swing Jewish voters
to the GOP.
Some recent polling shows that Republican inroads into the Jewish vote are
minimal so far, yet strategists say they're intent on attacking what they
see as weaknesses in Kerry's record and in his outreach to the Jewish
When Republicans first started talking about making inroads into the
traditionally Democratic Jewish voting bloc, party leaders said they would
focus on the positives of Bush's record, rather than attacking Kerry.
Marc Racicot, chairman of the Bush/Cheney campaign, told JTA in March that
he did not believe Kerry was weak on Israel, and that the campaign would
focus instead on comparing the candidates' defense and security records.
But Republican Jewish officials said they began to see Kerry as potentially
vulnerable in the Jewish community after his performance in front of the
Anti-Defamation League in May - Kerry's only major speech to a Jewish
audience so far in the campaign - and believed the Democrats were not
actively trying to court Jewish voters.
"The ADL speech was totally underwhelming," one Jewish Republican said. "It
showed his strategy was to move closer to the president and hold the base
he already has."
That analysis has led to an increased effort by Republican Jews. In
addition to highlighting Bush's support for Israel, their appeal to Jewish
voters has centered on the administration's leadership against terrorism,
Bush's efforts against global anti-Semitism and his leadership in volatile
By contrast, they portray Kerry as someone who has not led on Middle East
issues, and - customizing their broad "flip-flopper" argument for a Jewish
audience - say he has taken contradictory stances on the
"The message is, 'we don't know where John Kerry really stands,' " said
Matthew Brooks, executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition.
"Right now, given how important things are and how many lives are at stake,
John Kerry is a risk the Jewish community can not afford...