It was inevitable, the only question is why it took so long: on Tuesday, the Romney Campaign announced the launch of the Jewish Americans for Romney Coalition.
The launch comes on the heels of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s visit to Israel, which the candidate says persuaded him that “now, more than ever, America needs to stand with Israel. I will extend the hand of friendship because our partnership is not merely a strategic alliance but a force for good in the world.”
To date, the Romney campaign website lists these supportive communities: Catholics for Romney, Jewish Americans for Romney, Juntos con Romney, Lawyers for Romney (!), Polish Americans for Romney, Veterans and Military Families for Romney, Women for Mitt, and Young Americans for Romney.
Joining Romney in the announcement of this coalition was House Majority leader Eric Cantor and former US Minnesota Senator Norm Coleman, who are two out of a short list of Honorary Chairmen.
Cantor invoked the standard talismans of “strong bonds” and “Israel’s security” in endorsing Romney and encouraging all Jewish Americans, “Democrat, Republican and Independent alike” to give Romney’s candidacy “serious consideration.”
Coleman, a former member of Congress, used stronger language both in terms of why American Jews will be better off under President Romney, who “will succeed in turning around the U.S. economy where Barack Obama has failed,” and in articulating what Coleman says is Romney’s understanding of the dangers facing Israel: “He understands that Israel is targeted by the failed states of the Middle East as a convenient scapegoat. He understands that there is a worldwide campaign to demonize the Jewish state.”
In the announcement of the new official coalition, there was one concrete pledge made. Coleman said that, if elected, Mitt Romney pledged he will make his first foreign trip as president to Jerusalem.
What was not present in either the announcement of the Jewish Americans for Romney Coalition or on the issues page of the MittRomney.com website were other specifics. For example, in the speech Romney gave in Jerusalem that was widely lauded and shared by many in the pro-Israel community, Romney referred to Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. There is currently no mention of Jerusalem on the website.
In fact, much of the language found on the Romney Israel Issues page of his website could just as easily be found in his challenger’s talking points. That this candidate will “work closely with Israel to maintain its strategic military edge” is hardly a bold pledge, and President Obama has also repeatedly said that, as Romney’s website states, efforts to unilaterally decide issues “designated for final status negotiations” is unacceptable.
While the site promises that with “regard to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Mitt’s policy will differ sharply from President Obama’s,” at present it is hard to find much foundation for that promise.
Perhaps it is merely the website that really seems to be in the “Not Ready for Prime Time” stage, because the candidates and their respective campaigns have been assiduously wooing the Jewish vote, what with Governor Romney visiting Israel and the president’s recent campaign stop to Century Village, a large gated community in heavily-Jewish south Florida.
A Gallup poll from last month shows a dip in Jewish support for President Obama. In 2008 the president received 78 percent of the Jewish vote, and while that margin has shrunk to 64 percent, it’s hardly a close race. The latest Rasmussen Poll conducted last week shows Romney with a very slight overall edge over Obama, 45 – 44 percent. However, Obama is beating the challenger in two of the critical swing vote states, he’s ahead by 6 percentage points in both Florida and Ohio.
While Romney was in Israel showcasing his support for the Jewish State and his close relationship with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, President Obama signed a measure passed by congress that will strengthen US-Israel military ties and announced he was releasing $70 million in congressional-approved funding for Israel’s short-range rocket shield known as “Iron Dome.”
Members of the Jewish Americans for Romney Coalition Advisory Board include former White House Liaisons to the Jewish Community Tevi Troy and Jeremy Katz. Other members include several who served in the State Department under Secretaries of State Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice, several former Ambassadors, such as Mitchell Reiss and Eric Edelman, and Eliot Cohen, who in 2006 penned a powerful piece in the Washington Post responding to Steven Walt and John Meirsheimer’s book “The Israel Lobby,” deeming it anti-Semitic.
Lori Lowenthal Marcus