Debbie Wasserman Schultz at AIPAC
U.S. Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), third from right, applauds as U.S. President Barack Obama makes remarks at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) annual policy confe Photo by Reuters
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BOCA RATON, FLORIDA - “Despite Republican lies and distortions, Jewish voters are going to overwhelmingly support Barack Obama and Democratic candidates up and down the ticket, as they always do,” according to Florida Congresswoman and Democratic National Committee chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

Speaking to Haaretz at the media center at Boca Raton, Florida, where Monday night’s presidential debate is to be held, Wasserman Schultz asserted that there had been no erosion in Jewish support for Obama and for Democrats. “The Republicans always say ‘this is the year’ that they are going to peel away Jewish votes from the Democrats – but it never happens.”

But former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer, who has been lobbying on behalf of Mitt Romney for the Republican Jewish coalition, says that “there’s a lot of nervousness in the American Jewish community about a second Obama term” – and that this will move votes away from Obama and towards Romney.

Jewish Americans are a Democratic voting bloc,” Fleischer conceded, “but the exact number is key. In the past election, John McCain got 22% of Jewish vote, George Bush got 25%, and if Mitt Romney can get between 25-30% - this race is over. If he gets 25% he’ll take Florida, and if he gets 30% - he’ll take Ohio.”

The two were speaking to Haaretz in the area known as “spin alley” at Lynn University, and were voicing diametrically opposed assessments about Obama’s record on Israel. Wasserman Schultz cited Ehud Barak as saying that “Israel has no better friend than President Barack Obama in the White House,” while Fleischer said that Obama “wants to distance America from Israel to the point of being neutral”.

“You see that in the way that the President “condemned” Israel’s housing policy, using the same words that you do when someone kills people,” Fleischer said. “The President complained about having to talk to PM Netanyahu every day in response to Sarkozy calling Netanyahu a liar. He spoke about 1967 borders with land swaps. He has a history of poking Israel and it makes American Jews nervous.”

But Wasserman Schultz countered that “Jewish voters who are angry with Obama are the same Jewish voters who didn’t vote for him four years ago.” Although “Jewish” signs near the debate forum at Lynn University were decidedly pro-Romney (“It’s a Mitt-Zvah”) and anti-Obama (Obama – Oy Vay”), Wasserman Schultz said that support for Obama among likely Jewish voters stands at 70%, “ahead of where he was four years ago.” That proves, she said, “that the lies and distortions are not working”.

“When it comes to issues that are important to Jewish voters – education, health care, civil rights, civil liberties, health, making sure we stand up for people who have no voice – Jewish voters agree with Democrats. The Republicans are wrong on every issue that matters to Jewish voters. What they have been doing is that they’ve trying to lie and to distort the President’s stellar record on Israel, so that they can shave off a few points.”

Asked what she would advise Obama to say in order to assuage the concerns of Jewish voters, Wasserman Schultz said: “The President doesn’t need me to advise him.” Fleischer, on the other hand, promised that Romney would show that Obama’s policy towards Israel broadcasts “overall weakness”.