Jewish-American voters may make up only 2 percent of the U.S. electorate, but they are being relentlessly courted by the campaign of presumptive Republican Party nominee Mitt Romney. However, with the anointing of U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., as his running mate, Romney may have just lost many of them.
Consider that Ryan's proposed cuts to Social Security and Medicare have made him unpopular among older voters. Josh Nathan-Kazis wrote in a blog post at the Forward, a Jewish newspaper, on Saturday how Ryan's selection could win Barack Obama some key Florida districts known for having heavy Jewish (and often elderly) numbers. Nathan-Kazis pointed out that Democrats in Florida are already attempting to discredit their Republican opponents by associating them with Ryan's proposed drastic budget cuts.
Even Romney, who is business-school buddies with Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, attempted to distance himself from Ryan's budget plans in an interview with Fox News on Saturday.
Also, David H. Harris, leader of the National Jewish Democratic Council, indicated that the Ryan candidacy presents a concern.
"Romney's selection of Paul Ryan to serve as his vice presidential candidate is the clearest indication yet that Romney does not reflect the values of most American Jews," Harris wasted no time in saying.
"Ryan's signature budget plan drew the profound concern and even ire of many in the American Jewish community because of its plans to end Medicare as we know it, slash vital social safety net programs, and increase the burden on seniors, the middle class, and the poor."
Harris said Jewish voters do not face a choice between "pro-Israel" and "anti-Israel" candidates in this election.
"They see the stellar pro-Israel record that Obama has, and it speaks for itself," Harris said. "He's sent an unprecedented amount of aid to Israel, twice as much as the previous administration.
"Paul Ryan has voted six times against strengthening sanctions against Iran," Harris continued. "He is definitely pro-Israel, but pro-Israel and pro-Iran is not a dramatic choice. The dramatic choice is on the social issues, and there is a chasm separating [the candidates] on every issue."
But Jonathan S. Tobin, editor of the right-wing Commentary magazine, wrote on Sunday, "those Jewish voters who are most vulnerable to Mediscare tactics were already going to vote for Obama," and that "liberal assumptions" on Jewish voter flight in the face of a Ryan vice presidency are just "wishful thinking."
"The centrist voters who are in play this fall may not be as easily fooled as liberals think," he wrote. Republicans do not see Obama's record on Israel as being as "stellar" as Harris thinks. U.S. Rep. Joe Walsh, R-Ill., said last week that the president has done "the bare minimum" to maintain credibility among Jewish voters.
Moreover, Matt Brooks, executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition, praised Ryan in a statement, saying "Paul Ryan has earned appreciation from pro-Israel voters by rejecting the Obama administration's tactic of pressuring Israel to make concessions its leaders believe will undermine security."
And, added Tobin in his article, "a lot of those Jewish grandmothers and grandfathers who care about Israel may just decide they like Ryan a lot more than Obama."
As of July 26, prior to Romney's VP announcement, Gallup found that Jewish voters prefer Obama to Romney, 68 to 25 percent, which is a landslide but a lower Jewish percentage than the Democrat won in 2008. As Mother Jones reporter Adam Serwer reminded former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm on her CurrentTV show "The War Room," the election "will not hinge on the Jewish vote."
"[Romney's] not going to win over the vast majority of Jews because they have mostly liberal values," he said. "They're not single-issue voters."