Bloggers are wondering what Jewish voters in Florida think of Barack Obama and are reacting to David Cook's American Idol victory.
Oy-bama: A much discussed New York Times article by Jodi Kantor suggests that quite a lot of elderly Jews in Florida are wary of Barack Obama for all the wrong reasons. (Some think he's an Arab, a Muslim, and/or a Palestinian.) It's the sort of regional in-focus piece that has many members of the tribe in cyberspace wincing.
The Atlantic's Jeffrey Goldberg, who is cited in the piece for his interview with Obama on Jewish themes (and Israel), writes from his new blog: "I would have been happier had some of these alte kockers expressed some substantive criticism of Obama. But it's important to remember that, despite all of these problems of perception, and of actual racism, Jews are still far more likely than other whites to vote for a black candidate for President. I wouldn't be surprised if Obama ends up with 70 or 75 percent of the Jewish vote." But James Joyner at Outside the Beltway says the math bolsters the Times' case: "The latest Rasmussen poll in Florida shows McCain beating Obama 50-40. More interestingly, "Just 57% of Florida Democrats say they will vote for Obama while 27% plan to vote for McCain. The two candidates are essentially even among unaffiliated voters." To be sure, part of this is a function of Hillary Clinton supporters who haven't accepted that Obama will be the nominee yet, combined with some bitterness over how the DNC has treated the state. Regardless, Obama has to view this with some concern."
Hugh Hewitt sees trouble ahead for Obama in failing to register Jewish concern with respect to Iran: "This is no time for a lightweight in the White House, one who completely fails to grasp the nature of the enemy. Appeasement will not work with the mullahs, no matter how many college students believe it would."
One woman cited in the article said, "His father was a Muslim and you can't take that out of him." To which Ogged at eclectic group blog Unfogged offers a measured reply: "Presumably, this woman, who is voting for Obama, means something like that: Muslims are real people to him and there will be some tug of sympathy when he thinks of them. To her, and to lots of Americans, that's one of Obama's weaknesses."
Soccer Dad faults Jodi Kantor for seeking out caricature criticisms of Obama in lieu of substantive ones: "He has only two years of experience in the Senate. He has no record of bipartisanship in his career. He is friends with Rashid Khalidi. He is the choice of Hamas.One of his advisers until recently is the only American at Camp David who blamed Barak, not Arafat for the summit's failure." And ex-Wonkette Alex Pareene, now at Gawker, comments on the fact that Obama's visits to synagogues and delis outweigh all else: "Obama's also neglected to make a high-profile visit to his psychiatrist, his popular music producer, or his jeweler."
Some former Floridians provide local perspective. Conservative Susan Duclos at Wake Up America wasn't surprised by the opinions cited in the piece. But she doesn't fault South Floridians for being misinformed: "[T]he blame for that lies directly on Obama for not taking the time to let Floridians get to know him. Obama will try to go overcome these issues after the primaries are over but by then it will be too late for many many people in Florida and not just the Jewish vote." But Kevin Hayden at the lefty American Street doesn't think Obama faces an insurmountable obstacle: "They're old, they just respond to biases that trigger the sense of vulnerability. They don't call names or go to Klan rallies. But they feel some unease with any Black stranger. It's not so hard to overcome. As he begins campaigning there, as some meet Barack and Michelle and their daughters, much of that fear of the Other will dissipate for most. It has way more to do with their age than their Jewishness."
And Tom Bevan of Real Clear Politics notes that John McCain's secret weapon in Florida isn't Charlie Crist: "I suspect more than a 'few old Jews' along Florida's Gold Coast will be favorably disposed to hearing from one of McCain's most passionate and outspoken supporters: Joe Lieberman."
Read more about Obama and Floridian Jews.
Idol over: Rocker David Cook defeated 17-year-old David Archuleta, the judges' favorite, to win American Idol.