The Republican Jewish Coalition Presidential Candidates Forum was held on Wednesday in Washington, D.C., with around 450 attendees who paid $500 a ticket to hear all the GOP candidates (except Ron Paul who was not invited).
Rick Santorum summed it up best when he said, “It’s not easy to be a Jewish Republican.”
This is true, considering Obama’s promise of hope and change won 78% of the Jewish vote in 2008, the most he garnered from any group except African Americans.
But for Jewish Republicans 2012 represents a different kind of hope and change. Hope that in the next presidential election a large chunk of their brethren will see the error of their ways, change parties, and vote for anyone but Obama.
Hope, after all, has always sustained the Jewish people. However, historic voting patterns offer little hope because Jewish loyalty to the Democrat Party has been in the high 70% percent range for decades.
For example, when I told a liberal Jewish family member that I was attending the Republican Jewish Forum she said, “GOP Jewish Forum? What a joke!”
But all the Republican presidential candidates did not think this gathering was a joke. The proof is they all made time in their busy schedules to attend, speak alone on stage for about 20 minutes, and then answer questions directly from the audience. As a group they were impressive and extremely articulate. They pledged support for Israel and not one used a teleprompter.
On my personal applause meter, on a scale from 1 to 10, here is how the candidates moved the Jewish Republicans, and how I determined today’s “winner.”
Rick Santorum earned a 4 when he was introduced and a 5 when he concluded. He got polite applause but made no great connection… truly a warm-up act.
Jon Huntsman was a 5 when introduced and a 5 when he concluded. He is qualified to be president but he is lacking passion.
Mitt Romney earned an 8 when he took the stage with a standing ovation. Then Romney earned another 8 when he finished his remarks but then close to a 9 and another standing ovation when he finished answering questions from the audience. Romney was the main act, but Newt was still to come.
Chris Christie was passionate as a lunch speaker earning an 8 on the applause meter. However, Christie, being a Romney supporter, did not even mention Romney, which I found odd.
After lunch, Newt Gingrich was introduced, earning a 6 on the applause meter. He made news by saying he would ask Former UN Ambassador John Bolton to be his secretary of State. But the longer Gingrich spoke (lectured I should say), he seemed to lose the energy of the crowd and received a 4 on the meter.
Rick Perry earned a 5 when introduced and a 7 when he left the stage with a standing ovation. The crowd warmed to him during a long question and answer period. He had a great line when he said, “This city is not ready for me!”
Michele Bachmann received a standing ovation and a 6 on the applause meter. When she concluded her remarks, she earned another standing O and a 7 on the meter. Then, like Romney, she received a third standing O and another 7 applause when she finished answering questions from the audience. Bachmann speaks from her heart when she talks about Israel and the crowd fell in love.
So after hearing all the candidates speak for about 30 minutes I declare the winner of the Republican Jewish Coalition Presidential Forum to be Mitt Romney. This is based on the applause levels and standing ovations for his stirring speech about leadership and his command performance on the stage.
The high point of Romney’s speech was when he said as president he would make Israel his first foreign trip. This is in contrast to President Obama who has not visited Israel as president.
Organizationally, just for the record, a minute before Romney had finished his speech I received an email of the speech as a press release. His is a campaign organization that is ready to roll and face the “Campaigner in Chief.”
Not wanting to rely just on my own instincts, I asked several other attendees who they thought had been the “winner” and all agreed it was Romney because he looked and acted the most presidential.
The Republican Jewish Presidential Candidates Forum ended with the battle cry, “Remember in November! — and the Jewish community will play a historic role.”
Let’s hope great change will occur within the American Jewish community at large in 2012 to nip away at that 78% of the vote that Obama won from them in 2008.
The Jewish vote significantly shifting in a few key states like Florida could make 2012 a November to remember.