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The Aftermath of the Midterm Elections: What the Future Holds

November 11, 2010 By:
Matt Brooks
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Across the country, the Republican Jewish Coalition played a decisive role in last week's elections. The RJC proved meaningful not only in direct donations from the RJC PAC to candidates who support our members' interests -- free markets, support for Israel, a strong national defense -- but also in our own advocacy work in stimulating debate in the community.

Nowhere was that more visible than in Pennsylvania. We targeted the Senate race between Pat Toomey and Joe Sestak with particular intensity, because by many measures, Sestak presented the biggest threat to Israel of any candidate in the nation. The RJC advertised in Jewish newspapers around the state, created Internet videos, sent direct mail to hundreds of thousands of Jewish households, and advertised on cable and broadcast television in the Philadelphia area.

All in, the RJC spent more than $1 million raising questions about Sestak's record on Israel, as well as his troubling and wrong assertion that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed ought to be tried in a civilian court in Pennsylvania.

The result? Sestak lost 51-49.

In the aftermath, many left-leaning groups have leapt into the fray, citing exit polling that purports to show that Jews didn't vote much more for the Republicans than they normally do. With everyone from Eric Alterman to Talking Points Memo to J Street (which sponsored the survey) crowing about the supposed consistency of the Jewish lean toward Democrats, there hasn't been this much celebration by the losing side in Philadelphia since the first Rocky.

It's been fascinating to read commentary from J Streeters and other pundits alleging that our anti-Sestak ads didn't work, since a large number of Jews obviously still voted for him. But if messaging from RJC wasn't effective, then why did Sestak apologize in September for signing the "Gaza 54" letter that urged the president to pressure Israel into easing safety measures along the Gaza Strip?

Ultimately, the only poll that mattered is which candidate won.

Twelve of the 13 Senate candidates the RJC PAC contributed to were victorious. J Street PAC contributed funds to three Senate candidates; all were defeated. In the House, 25 out of the 36 candidates that the RJC PAC contributed to were winners. Of the 17 House candidates who received meaningful J Street PAC contributions, only six were victorious. The RJC PAC supported the Republican against J Street PAC's candidate in 11 races. The RJC PAC-backed candidate won seven of those 11 races, including all three Senate races.

Since 1982, the historical average for the GOP in mid-term elections among Jewish voters has been 24 percent, with a low of 18 percent and a high of 30 percent. In Pennsylvania, the RJC's polling showed Toomey collecting 30.7 percent of the Jewish vote. A Democratic poll commissioned by J Street put that number at 23 percent.

But even their poll cites a national average across the country of 31 percent for 2010 -- exceeding even our own polling's high-water mark. They cannot cite a number higher than the GOP has ever collected among Jewish voters and simultaneously suggest that Jews aren't increasing support for Republican candidates.

The left-wing blogs seeking to dismiss the inroads made by Jewish Republicans cannot have it both ways. They danced in the endzone in 2008, claiming that Barack Obama's win with 78 percent of the Jewish vote proved his appeal beyond the wave favoring Democrats from top to bottom. They cannot now turn around and claim that Republican overperformance among Jews this time around was simply part of the bounceback wave.

We have stated from the founding of the RJC that this is a process, a building of trust between a party whose values are increasingly in line with those of the Jewish people. The RJC's results this year were nothing short of stunning.

American voters elected a vast array of Republicans, including black, Hispanic, Indian and Jewish representatives who depict the diversity that appeals to the typical Jewish voter. The first thing Marco Rubio, the senator-elect from Florida, planned after his win? He wasn't headed for Disney World. He headed to Israel.

Matt Brooks is executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition and the Jewish Policy Center, which examines public policy from a Jewish perspective.

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