Republicans in Israel Focus on Winning Over Votes Back Home

Chairman of local group sees 'no reason to expend precious resources on Anglos.'

It was a get-out-the-vote press event with a "Let's Make a Deal" feel. And much like the legendary American game show, there was a surprise lurking behind every door at the Jerusalem offices of Republicans Abroad Israel.

Leave it to the group's leaders to handpick the dozen or so activists who participated this week in its tightly choreographed evening of outbound calls to hundreds of voters. With less than three weeks before the U.S. presidential election, the activists weren't calling Americans in Israel who are eligible to vote. With the aid of scripts, step-by-step instructions, and a generous portion of pizza, they spread out into several rooms, placing calls to Americans in the crucial swing states of Florida and Ohio, where it is generally believed the forthcoming election will be decided.

"That's ground zero," says Kory Bardash, Republicans Abroad Israel co-chair.

"We're working to try to unseat the chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, Debbie Wasserman Schultz," co-chair Mark Zell explained to television crews from the organization's headquarters, which doubles as his international law office. "And we're also asking for their support for Governor Romney in the presidential race."

Bardash told Anglo File that teams of Republicans Abroad Israel callers have been reaching out to U.S. swing states from their homes for weeks, with the objective of reaching 10,000 swing-state voters before election day, November 6. He would not reveal how his group obtained the telephone numbers of those voters.

With the absentee ballot process for overseas voters drawing to a close, Bardash sees no practical reason to expend precious resources on Americans in Israel, he says.

"Republicans Abroad Israel knows that three out of four people voting in Israel will be voting Republican," Bardash says confidently.

Democrats dispute this point. "The only basis for alleging that voters in Israel show a preference for Romney over Obama is a phony poll that sampled primarily Republicans, who, naturally, prefer the Republican candidate," said Sheldon Schorer, counsel to Democrats Abroad Israel, in response to Bardash's contention. "In all years past, the Jewish vote in Israel has closely paralleled the Jewish vote in the United States, which in the last election showed 78% in favor of Obama. I expect a similar result in this election."

But there may be good reason for Bardash's sense of optimism, he suggests. Several of the activists he recruited to make the calls said they voted for Obama in the last election but have since crossed over to the Republican party.

"At the age of 80, I never voted for a Republican presidential candidate," says Bryna Franklin, a former resident of St. Louis and Franklin County, Missouri, and former chairwoman of Democrats Abroad Israel, as she took a break from her calls. "But this particular year, suddenly I realize that I cannot remain quiet."

Franklin, a first-generation American from a proud Democratic family, says she was repelled by Obama's "lack of respect toward Israel and Prime Minister Netanyahu." But she stresses that, for her, the election is about far more than policy toward Israel."A president also has to be good for America," says Franklin, who served as a delegate to the 1992 Democratic National Convention. "If I look back over the last four years, what has improved for the American citizen?"

Behind another door, in an adjacent office suite, a woman who would only give her first name, Cynthia, also worked the phones. She was joined by her mother, Berta, and her 84-year-old grandmother, Flora, who were visiting from Boca Raton, Florida.

"Usually we go out to dinner, but tonight I said, 'We're going to make some phone calls,'" said the 27-year-old, who asked not to reveal her family name because she works for a U.S. company. "I'm very concerned about our security, and I think we need a strong American president who better understands the nuances and the sensitivities of this area."

Behind yet another door sat Princella Smith, a 29-year-old from Conway, Arkansas, who was making what she said were "issue-advocacy calls" to voters back home. "You've got to do direct voter contact," said Smith, an African American and self-described evangelical Christian who has worked on several U.S. political campaigns and most recently served as national spokesperson for American Solutions, the policy think tank headed by former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich. "It's directly touching voters that counts."

From left: Cynthia, Berta and Flora, volunteers with Republicans Abroad Israel.Credit: Emil Salman

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