For all the news media’s tut-tutting about Barack Obama strained relations with Jewish voters, Salon points out that he’s actually in pretty good shape in that department:
…a Gallup poll last month — in the midst of the Wright drama — found Obama beating McCain 61-32 among Jewish voters, a far wider margin than among the population as a whole. While that’s lower than John Kerry’s 76 percent margin among Jews (and 5 points lower than the 66 percent Hillary Clinton got in the same poll), Obama’s campaign isn’t worried about making up the difference by November. “If we’re beating McCain 2-1 after ‘Obama is a Muslim’ scares and a month of Rev. Wright, then we’re doing pretty well,” one aide said.
But Salon also makes plain why Obama can’t afford half-hearted support from Jewish voters, despite their small numbers nationally:
Jews have favored the Democrat in 21 straight presidential elections, and by an average margin of 3-to-1. In battleground states like Ohio, Pennsylvania and Nevada, the Jewish population is a large enough slice of the electorate that Obama can’t afford for them to abandon him.
In Florida, Jews make up around 5 percent of the voting population — more than enough to swing a close race. (If all the South Florida Jewish voters who intended to support Al Gore and Joe Lieberman in 2000 had actually cast their votes properly, Gore would have won.) Florida may be tipping from truly purple toward red; Bush won it easily in 2004 and the Republican governor, Charlie Crist, will work hard for McCain. But if the state is competitive again this fall, Obama can’t afford to let McCain take a big share of Florida’s Jewish voters, who turn out in disproportionately large numbers compared to their share of the state’s residents. With an older population than the national average, Florida already poses demographic problems for Obama without losing a traditional part of the Democratic coalition.