POLITICS
09/21/2012 10:00 am ET Updated Sep 21, 2012

Mitt Romney Talks Economy, Iran -- Not Two-State Solution -- In Call With Jewish Leaders

In a 20-minute conference call with rabbis and leaders from the Jewish community on Thursday evening, Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney offered a defense of his economic plan and a strong line on Iran's nuclear program, according to reports and a source who listened in on the call.

Romney stuck to domestic policy at first, telling listeners about his plan to fix the economy, as well as his education and energy goals. He later took two questions, one about Medicaid, the other about Iran, Jewish newspaper JTA reports.

On Iran, he reiterated his hard "red line" on the country's nuclear development, emphasizing that tough sanctions and the clear threat of the use of force should be deployed to prevent Iran from acquiring the capacity to build a bomb.

One subject that Romney did not touch on, however, was his stance on the two-state solution in the Middle East, according to a Democratic source who listened in.

Questions about Romney's position on the two-state solution have sprung up in recent days after a video surfaced showing him decrying the difficulties of negotiating peace between Israelis and Palestinians, and concluding that the most an American leader can do is "kick the ball down the field" and hope for the best.

Paul Ryan, Romney's running mate, later said that he and Romney do still believe in the two-state solution, but Romney has yet to address the issue.

"Gov. Romney laid out a detailed description of the many difficult issues that must be solved in order to reach a two-state solution," Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul said in an email, referring to the nominee's videotaped remarks. "Gov. Romney believes that the path to a two-state solution is to ensure the security of Israel and not to throw up any more barriers to the two sides engaging in direct negotiations."

The conference call was part of a pair of campaign-related briefings with a Rabbinical association organized around the Jewish High Holidays, which began this week. Obama took part in a similar call last week that lasted about 40 minutes, the Democratic source said.

Republican officials believe that 2012 might be a year that finally sees some significant swings in Jewish voting trends away from the Democratic Party and toward Republicans, particularly due to the perception that Obama has allowed distance to grow between the U.S. and Israel over Iran's nuclear development projects.

But a recent poll of registered Jewish voters in the key state of Florida, conducted by the American Jewish Committee, found that Obama still had the support of 69 percent, while just 25 percent said they supported Romney.

Just 1 percent of those polled said that Iran's nuclear program was the most important issue to them in the upcoming election. More than half pointed to the economy.

This post has been updated to include a comment from Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul.

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