Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) — who, by all reports, was very nearly John McCain's choice for running mate — predicted during a Sept. 28 GOP rally in Ardmore that McCain would receive more support from Jewish voters than any Republican candidate since before the Great Depression.
Back in 1980, Ronald Reagan garnered 39 percent of the Jewish vote en route to trouncing Jimmy Carter, earning the highest percentage of the Jewish vote in decades. (In the 1920 election, Warren G. Harding got 43 percent.) George W. Bush received 19 percent in 2000 and 24 percent in 2004, far more representative numbers.
Lieberman — who, of course, was the Democratic nominee for vice president in 2000 — traveled from Washington, D.C., to address scores of McCain supporters who had packed into the campaign office of Lance Rogers, a Republican seeking a state Senate seat. Rogers and several other Republican hopefuls, including Marina Kats, who is seeking the 13th Congressional District seat, and Lynne Lechter, who's running for the open 149th state House District seat, also took to the podium.
Lieberman clarified that he was speaking on behalf of McCain and had not endorsed the local candidates.
The goal of breaking 39 percent of the Jewish vote is a difficult one, considering that the Jewish community overwhelmingly identifies with the Democratic Party, despite the best efforts of the Republicans. According to the American Jewish Committee's annual survey of American Jewish Opinion, conducted throughout last month, just 30 percent of respondents favored McCain, while 57 percent supported Barack Obama, and 13 percent remained undecided.
McCain's choice of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin — who holds social conservative views, including a staunch pro-life stance — seems to have complicated his outreach efforts. According to the survey, only 37 percent of respondents approved of her, while 73 percent approved of Obama's choice of Sen. Joe Biden (D-Del.).
During an interview following his speech, Lieberman said that he "hoped" Palin wouldn't complicate GOP efforts to woo Jewish voters, especially in battleground states, such as Pennsylvania.
"I think that most of the Jewish community is very impressed with Gov. Palin, and others are getting to know her, let's put it that way," said Lieberman. "I think people understand that you vote for the president."
Lieberman said he was surprised when he learned that he was on the so-called short list himself to be No. 2 on the McCain ticket.
"In some sense, it shows what a maverick John McCain is that he actually seriously entertained choosing a Democrat to be his running mate. But that's who he is," stated Lieberman.
The Connecticut senator, who also sought the Democratic Party's top spot four years ago, endorsed McCain in late 2007, arguing that the Republican candidate would make the best commander in chief, and was the candidate who would win the war in Iraq and best meet the threat posed by Iran.
In the interview, he also asserted that McCain displayed his leadership by getting more closely involved in the negotiations over the federal economic bailout plan than Obama.
During the September 26 presidential debate in Mississippi, the two candidates engaged in a tit for tat on the issue of whether or not to engage in talks with Iran — and whether or not the president should be involved in those talks. Obama has claimed that it is important for the United States to talk with its adversaries, much as it engaged in talks with the Soviet Union during the Cold War.
Given that it is widely believed that Israel may carry out a pre-emptive strike against Iran in the near future, is the quandary over the talks really a meaningful distinction between them?
"There is good and evil in the world. The current Iranian regime is not only preaching hatred but has the blood of a lot of people, including hundreds of Americans, on their hands," said Lieberman, adding that engaging in diplomatic talks would "probably do nothing more than legitimize [Iranian President Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad and give him a propaganda opportunity."
The candidates themselves haven't had a major public disagreement over the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, although McCain snubbed Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas during his trip to Israel earlier this year, while Obama did meet with Abbas in Ramallah.
Lieberman said that McCain would "continue the U.S. attempt to mediate an agreement between Israelis and Palestinians, but would never pressure the government of Israel to do something it didn't want to do."
The Connecticut senator also claimed that 2008 represents the most-important national election in his lifetime, even more important than the one where his name was on the ballot.
"That was very important to me personally. But what I meant was [important] for our country," he said. "I don't think there has been a more [significant] election. All that's happening — it's a dangerous world and it's tough economic times — potentially, the most challenging since the Depression. And if it's not handled right, we could be in for some very difficult years."