US Primaries 2024: Jewish voters’ impact on Biden vs. Trump showdown

NEW YORK – Jewish political advocacy groups are ramping up efforts to reach Jewish voters in battleground states as primaries officially kick off Monday with the caucuses in Iowa.

While the Jewish Democratic Council of America (JDCA) and the Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) both vocalize their support for Israel and its self-defense, the groups face different challenges in securing votes among the Jewish electorate.

The JDCA and its political action committee (PAC) will face a Jewish voting base that overwhelmingly supports Democrats and US President Joe Biden, except for the youngest voting bloc, which is the most critical of the Biden administration’s response to the Israel-Hamas war.

The RJC and its PAC will face Jewish voters who have a low approval rating of former US President Donald Trump, who will most likely receive the Republican Party’s nomination, according to recent national polling.

A survey conducted by the nonpartisan Jewish Electorate Institute in November 2023 reported that 68% of Jewish voters said they would support Biden over Trump in a head-to-head matchup.

Signage for the 2024 Iowa Caucuses is seen taken with a long exposure at the Iowa Caucus media center at the Iowa Events Center ahead of the Iowa caucus vote in Des Moines, Iowa, U.S., January 14, 2024 (credit: REUTERS/Cheney Orr)

According to the survey, 74% of Jewish voters approved of Biden’s handling of the war between Israel and Hamas, with the most significant disparity among younger and orthodox voters.

Support for Biden in wake of Oct. 7

According to the survey, this specific bracket least supported Biden’s visits to Israel after October 7, his decision to send aircraft carriers to the region, and his vetoing the UN ceasefire resolution.

Voters in this age group showed the highest support in calling for a humanitarian pause.

JDCA CEO Halie Soifer told The Jerusalem Post that her organization is prioritizing efforts to target and engage younger voters this cycle.

“They are a critical part of a winning Democratic coalition,” Soifer said. “And while Jewish voters have a relatively high turnout rate, our younger voters are less reliable in terms of turnout.”

Soifer said she’s confident Jewish voters, including younger ones, will continue a historical trend of overwhelmingly finding their political home in the Democratic Party.

She added that Israel is not the Jewish Democratic voters’ only issue of concern. Defending democracy and abortion rights are primary issues that will continue to drive the Jewish vote in this election.

“We can assume that the overwhelming majority of Jewish voters will continue to support Democrats because those two issues, as well as every other issue of importance to Jewish voters, including Israel, President Biden, and Democrats, are aligned with the values of Jewish voters,” Soifer said.

A JEI survey from June 2023 found Jewish voters focused on cultural issues, including democracy, abortion, guns, inflation, and climate change.

Soifer said she’s hopeful younger voters who are more issue-driven than party-driven will recognize that the future of democracy and abortion is at stake in this election and will show up to vote for Biden and Democrats.

Soifer said JDCA chapters and affiliates have started organizing in Nevada, Arizona, Georgia, Florida, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, California, and New York.

The JDCA PAC has work to do in making sure it’s clear what’s at stake in the election and the imperative of voting, Soifer said, because a non-vote translates to a vote for Trump.

“There could not be any candidate whose views were more antithetical to those of Jewish Americans than Donald Trump on every issue,” Soifer said. “He, as president, and to this day, has emboldened dangerous right-wing extremists and antisemites that have threatened our community.”

According to the JEI November survey, Biden and Democrats are more trusted among Jewish voters to fight antisemitism than Trump and Republicans.

Matt Brooks, CEO of the Republican Jewish Coalition, discounted polling numbers at this point of the campaign.The RJC doesn’t endorse a candidate during the primaries, and Brooks told the Post he wouldn’t say or do anything, implying that they’re going in one direction.

“We’re watching the primary,” Brooks said, “and we, more importantly, are preparing ourselves with what it’s going to take and developing the plan for the general election to beat Joe Biden in 2024, whoever our nominee is.”

Brooks said he also wouldn’t speculate on which candidate could have the most positive relationship with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and whoever succeeds him.

At the RJC annual conference in November, Brooks said he was looking forward to having the debate about which candidate stands better with Israel and has a better record with Israel.

“And I will put Donald Trump’s record over Joe Biden. I will put Nikki Haley’s record over Joe Biden’s,” Brooks told reporters at the conference.

Brooks told the Post his focus, and everyone’s focus, should not be what’s next but what has to be done to stay focused on winning the war.

“I think any of those conversations are counterproductive and shift the focus away from where it should be, which is the war effort right now,” Brooks said.

Brooks just returned from visiting Israel with former Vice President Mike Pence, where they met with Netanyahu, President Isaac Herzog, and war cabinet member Benny Gantz.

“We received and heard the same message from every single one of the government folks we met,” Brooks said. “Independent of where they were on the ideological spectrum, as it relates to the US, they are very, very complimentary and appreciative of the support that the administration and the congress and everybody have given them to defeat Hamas.”

Trump’s response to October 7 received intense scrutiny from Democrats, as well as fellow RepublicansIn comments to supporters on October 11, Trump said Hezbollah was “very smart” and called Defense Minister Yoav Gallant “a jerk.”

Then, on Fox News, Trump said Netanyahu was unprepared.

“He was not prepared, and Israel was not prepared. And under Trump, they wouldn’t have had to be prepared,” he said.

At the conference in November, Brooks told reporters that Trump’s record is more important than his ballistic rhetorical tendencies.

“He’s saying that Hezbollah, he’s not saying he supports them, he’s not saying he endorses them, he’s saying that they’re strategic and focused in how they act,” Brooks said in November. “That doesn’t change all that he has said previously and currently and all that he has done. His record is unblemished on this.”

Brooks said the priorities of a Republican president will be supporting Israel by making sure it has the resources it needs to keep its people safe.

“As we did under President Trump, we will work hard to ensure an expansion of normalizations and relations in the Arab world,” Brooks said, “whether that’s the Saudis and others to continue to expand the Abraham Accords to the next level, [or] to make sure that we do all that we can to combat rising antisemitism here at home.”

The RJC spent approximately $10 million in 2020 to help Trump maximize his share of the Jewish vote, Brooks said, through a massive ground operation and digital and TV ads.

In 2020, Brooks said there were historic numbers for Republicans among the Jewish vote, with over 40% of the Jewish vote in Florida and more than 50% of the Jewish vote in Georgia voting for Trump.

Brooks said the RJC is looking to expand the field from what they’ve done in the past by investing heavily in states such as Nevada and Arizona, where staff have already been hired.

“We’re gonna play in a very strategic way, and in a very significant way in critical battleground states to make sure that we identify and turnout a maximum share of the Jewish vote for our nominee,” Brooks said.

The RJC has endorsed 11 candidates across congressional and senate races in what Brooks said are crucial presidential battleground states.

The JDCA has endorsed 30 candidates.

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