Republicans Woo Voters


With the rain soaked Labor Day weekend officially in the rearview mirror, Republicans and Democrats looking to woo Jewish voters have gone into overdrive — with Philadelphia a primary target.

In Charlotte, N.C., Jewish delegates to the Democratic National Convention attended a Jewish outreach strategy session that focused on seven states, including Pennsylvania.

Montgomery County Commissioner Josh Shapiro, a convention delegate, said that Democrats "are working harder than ever to educate Jewish voters about the president's record."

As the Democrats gathered to renominate Obama, the Republican Jewish Coalition was preparing for its Sept. 9-10 grassroots outreach effort involving more than 1,000 volunteers, an initiative that's unprecedented in the group's 30-year history. The RJC will target Jewish voters in Pennsylvania, Florida and Ohio.

The plan, according Mathew Brooks, national director of the RJC, is for several hundred volunteers — many are being bused in from out of state at the RJC's expense — to canvas several zip codes in the Philadelphia area with a high concentration of Jewish voters. He said most of the activity will likely be concentrated on the Main Line, but he declined to offer specifics.

They won't be knocking on doors, he said, but they'll be handing out flyers as well as other literature and standing on prominent corners displaying signs. There's also a major RJC rally planned locally, though details were still being worked out.

Dozens of Republican-leaning college students are also expected to travel to the area as part of the effort and take part in a Shabbaton at a Main Line area hotel.

"The hope is to energize our folks, " said Brooks. "We want to highlight the fact that in the Jewish community, there is a lot of buyer's remorse" concerning Obama.

Brooks acknowledged that Mitt Romney has consistently trailed Obama in Pennsylvania polls and the Keystone State is not considered by pundits to be among the "toss-up" states, though he contended it is still in play, and the Jewish vote could prove decisive.

"Pennsylvania is going to be a sleeper," he said. "We are putting resources there. I think it is going to be one of those places that tighten up."

The efforts to persuade local Jewish voters intensified this week with full-page advertisements in the Jewish Exponent by both the Democrats and the Republicans. The RJC is running its first 2012 general election advertisement, as is a group calling itself Obama Jewish Outreach Pennsylvania. The group is coordinated by local activists David Broida, William Epstein, Burt Siegel and Jill Zippin. It's not connected to the Obama campaign, but works closely with the Montgomery County Democratic Committee.

The Democratic advertisement, signed by 291 local Jewish Obama supporters, highlighted the amount of military funding the United States has directed to Israel under Obama and the praise that Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak has offered for the president.

So far, the group has raised $18,000 out of the $50,000 they hope to get by election day — most of which has come in the form of small donations. The RJC doesn't disclose how much it spends on voter advocacy efforts and it is not required to by law.



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