Passover Politics: The Times Overstates Obama's Jewish Problem

Barack Obama actually improved the Democrats' showing among Jewish voters.

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Dan Gilgoff, God & Country

I'm always amazed at the resiliency of media narratives, even when they're not true. The New York Times report on last night's White House Seder includes these lines on Passover politics:

During the presidential campaign, Mr. Obama struggled to address skepticism from Jewish voters, particularly in the Democratic primary race with Hillary Rodham Clinton. But Jewish groups cheered the presidential Seder, and aides said the White House switchboard was flooded by calls from people seeking an invitation.

The Times leaves readers with the impression that Obama struggled with Jewish voters until the end, i.e., on Election Day.

Actually, despite all of 2008's stories on Jewish jitters over Obama because of his vow to negotiate with Iran, his endorsement from Louis Farrakhan, his expressions of sympathy for the Palestinians, and (false) rumors that he is a Muslim, Obama wound up restoring the Democrats' overwhelming advantage among Jewish voters, which had slipped under John Kerry's watch in 2004.

The share of Jewish votes for recent Democratic presidential nominees:

  • 78 percent for Barack Obama in 2008
  • 74 percent Kerry 2004
  • 79 percent for Al Gore in 2000
  • 78 percent for Bill Clinton in 1996
  • 80 percent for Bill Clinton in 1992

It's fine to note that Obama struggled to win over skeptical Jews last year. He certainly had some explaining to do. Ultimately, though, he pulled it off.