An Associated Press story by Philip Elliott was more skeptical, flatly stating, “The Jewish vote won’t make a difference in this election.” But the AP article also reported, “Romney himself is looking to reach into Jewish communities in Florida, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Ohio, North Carolina and Nevada.” To put it bluntly, up to now no one has ever claimed that North Carolina was the buckle on the bagel belt. (The state is so overwhelmingly Protestant that the only religion question on its 2008 exit poll was about whether voters were evangelical).
A running motif in all these stories is that an organization known as the Republican Jewish Coalition plans to spend more than $6 million on an ad campaign to woo Jewish voters away from Obama. A well-reported Miami Herald story by Marc Caputo reveals that the group has reserved $1.6 million in television time in Florida in September. It all sounds impressive until you realize that well over $2 billion will be spent on the 2012 presidential race—mostly for television ads in battleground states like Florida. An explicit TV message aimed at Jewish voters invariably will be lost in the blur and will probably be seen mostly by Christians, for obvious demographic reasons.
The larger message here—and this transcends the clichés that surround the Jewish vote—is that math matters on the political beat. Mitt Romney did not spend a weekend in Israel because he was obsessed with winning over 45,000 Jewish voters in Florida and 15,000 in Ohio. Instead, his motivation for the Israeli interlude was presumably fund-raising, evangelical voters, and foreign-policy posturing. That’s why irresistible story lines (as Sage Deli goes, so goes South Florida) need to be resisted—especially if the numbers add up to bupkes.