The IBD tracking polls have been shifting in and out when it comes to the Jewish vote, but over the last week it’s been a close race between Romney and Obama. And in the last week, Romney has been consistently ahead of Reagan’s share of the Jewish vote. And in some polls, even the share of every Republican in the last 100 years.
While Reagan did receive the highest share of the Jewish vote in the last 50 years, Eisenhower did better in 1956. Hughes and Harding pulled in 43-45 percent in the 1916-1920 elections, but that was before Eastern European immigration processed through the educational systems of the burgeoning liberal state transformed the American Jewish community from a conservative Spanish-German group into what it is now.
New Deal fanaticism gave FDR and Truman a tremendous share of the Jewish vote that began to fall off in the 50s as depression and war gave way to prosperity and suburbanization. Stevenson’s hostility to Israel may have helped bring Eisenhower to nearly Hughes and Harding levels, but it’s likely that comfort and stability played a larger role with Eisenhower picking up 4 percent more in his second election.
Jews chose the JFK/LBJ dynasty over Nixon, but drifted away from McGovern and back to Nixon, so that Nixon in 72 had a higher percentage of the Jewish vote than any Republican until Reagan, giving him the 2nd highest share of the Jewish vote in the last 50 years. Carter had the lowest share of the Jewish vote for a Democrat, so there’s no doubt that his anti-Israel attitude hurt him, but so did the economy. And it’s important to remember that most of Reagan’s 39 percent were also part of Nixon’s 35 percent.
The Jewish vote, like the national vote, is somewhat cyclical. There’s a liberal share of the pie that is unwinnable, but also has no long term future for simple demographic reasons that are already taking hold in New York City. And there is a share that is up for grabs.
The cycle now appears to be shifting away from the Democrats who have blown the economy and the Middle East, both issues of concern to Jewish voters and all voters.
Romney may not beat Reagan’s share of the Jewish vote in the actual election, but right now he’s polling ahead of him. And often ahead of every Republican in the last 100 years.
A shift this major might have all sorts of implications for the future.