This afternoon, Ruth Lieberman, a veteran political consultant who has been helping Republican Bob Turner in his special election race to win former Rep. Anthony Weiner's seat in New York, spoke with Townhall about the dynamics between Turner and the Jewish vote in this race and broader implications for 2012. The district shows 1/3 registered Jewish voters, but of last year's participation in the election, a large percentage were Jewish voters, according to Lieberman.
The conversation with Lieberman revealed voters in the very blue district seem interested on two issues: jobs and Israel. Turner's message to constituents has been that if they're not happy with the Obama economy or with the administration's stance on Israel, Turner is their man. Turner also picked up major Jewish Democrat endorsements along the way -- local Assemblyman Dov Hikind (who has been campaigning with Turner) and former New York Mayor Ed Koch. Lieberman emphasized that these two Democrat politicians are telling voters to cross over and that this isn't about party, but a referendum on Obama and jobs and Israel.
"The idea is telling Obama, we're not just in your pocket because we're Democrats and we're ticking off Democrat all the way down the list," Lieberman said, speaking generally from her perspective of working on the campaign and witnessing Hikind's impact. "We are holding you responsible for your policies, and we're telling you we don't want them."
Lieberman is associated with the organization Republicans Abroad in Israel, and it has a twofold purpose: inform the Israeli audience about what's going on in American politics and encourage registered U.S. voters who live in Israel to participate in elections. Lieberman said the Turner campaign had explained to them that they were seeing Israel as a major issue -- or the major issue-- with many of their voters.
Turner recently polled 6 points higher than Democrat opponent David Weprin, who is actually Jewish, and narrowed Weprin's lead among Jewish voters by 15 points. The Turner campaign sent out 5,000 letters to registered voters in Israel, asking them to register for the ballots and place them in time.
Lieberman said Turner's point has been that this election could actually affect the White House's attitude towards Israel over the next year, if Obama notices that a historically Democratic district with an active Jewish electorate concerned about American-Israeli relations chooses a Republican's perspective to represent them in Washington.
"If Obama looks at his always historically blue district ... if he gets this message from this Democrat district, this can affect his policies--again, both on fiscal and Israel -- in the next year," Lieberman said, adding that "flipping this district is only just ... the first sign" over how things can go over the next year and in the 2012 election.
Lieberman, in fact, is hearing that even non-Jewish voters in the district are talking about Obama on Israel.
"I think that's why we're getting the attention we're getting," she said. "If that's what the voters are saying in this little district in this one state of New York, then at this time, that's sending a huge message."