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Painting a Picture of the Presidential Elections

March 13, 2008 By:
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Matthew Brooks

If Jewish voters could be defined by a color, would they be red or blue? During the 2000 presidential elections, political pundits used red to designate those states leaning towards the Republican ticket and blue for those states expected to vote Democratic. During the 2004 elections, the definition was expanded to differentiate between those states perceived as liberal -- or blue -- and those deemed conservative -- or red.

Two of America's most prominent Jewish political analysts, Matthew Brooks and Ira N. Forman have vastly different opinions on where Jewish voters fit into this color scheme. They will share their thoughts on the 2008 presidential elections during the first program in the Gratz College Speakers Series, Monday, March 31, 8 p.m., at Har Zion Temple in Penn Valley. The series, designed to stimulate Jewish conversations throughout the community, is sponsored by the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia.

Brooks, executive director of the National Republican Jewish Coalition, cites statistics demonstrating "a steady increase in Jews voting Republican during the last four national presidential elections." Exit polls conducted in 2004 indicate that President Bush received the support of some 25 percent of Jewish voters -- a 32 percent increase over the year 2000.

"I am confident that Sen. McCain will build upon this gain in his 2008 presidential bid," said Brooks, who bases this confidence on the senator's strong support of Israel and his "commitment to doing whatever we must to win the war on terror."

Brooks believes that his candidate's views on "pressuring Iran to discontinue its pursuit of nuclear-weapons technology and renounce President [Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad's call for the elimination of Israel" will resonate with Jewish voters.

Forman, executive director of the National Jewish Democratic Council, acknowledges Sen. McCain's strong support of Israel. That said, he believes that both Democratic candidates are staunch Israel advocates and espouse views on other domestic and foreign-policy issues that Jewish voters can better identify with.

Forman takes issue with the Arizona legislator's comments made during an interview on Beliefnet.com, a Web site dealing with issues of faith and spirituality, during which McCain admitted that he agreed with a poll stating that 55 percent of Americans believe the Constitution established the United States as a Christian nation. Forman also feels that many Jewish voters will be disenchanted with the senator's solid record of voting pro-life since he entered the U.S. House of Representatives in 1983.

While Forman admits that McCain's perception as a candidate who is "less attached to the evangelical arm of the Republican party" might make him more "palatable" to some Jewish voters, he is confident that the vast majority will support the eventual Democratic nominee.

"From 1992 on, some 77 to 81 percent of Jewish voters have voted for Democratic candidates," Forman stated, adding that "I anticipate that this momentum will continue in 2008."

Marc Howard, veteran Philadelphia television news anchor, will moderate the discussion between Brooks and Forman.

The series will continue with a Monday, May 5 program at Gratz College in Melrose Park on "Freakonomics: A Jewish Perspective," featuring author Stephen Dubner, as well as a program on Monday, June 2, at the Gershman Y in Philadelphia titled "Israel at 60: Peace at What Cost?" Presenters will include Ambassador Dore Gold, president of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and former Israeli Representative to the United Nations, and Dr. Leonard Fein, founder of Moment magazine, Mazon and the National Jewish Coalition for Literacy.

This program will feature Edward A. Turzanski, senior fellow, Foreign Policy Research Institute, as moderator. All programs begin at 8 p.m.

This series, funded in part by the Shusterman Distinguished Scholar Fund and the Harry Stern Family Institute for Israel Studies, is open to the entire community. Tickets can be purchased for each individual program or for the entire three-lecture series.

For more information, call Mindy Blechman at 215-635-7300, or register online at: www.gratzcollege.edu.

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