In a election season that has known many shameful moments, the McCain
campaign's slanderous effort to use Rashid Khalidi to smear Barack
Obama, was one of the more shameful.
McCain and Palin grossly mischaracterized the person and work of
Khalidi. He was never, as they claimed, a PLO spokesperson, nor is he a
"radical" or an "extremist".
None of this mattered to the Republicans. Since the entire effort was
designed to callously scare up votes from Florida's large Jewish senior
citizen population, the fact that Khalidi was a Palestinian American was
enough. The entire affair was as malicious as it was slanderous. It was
hurtful to Khalidi and Arab Americans (who have been repeatedly used,
this year, as mud to sully opponents). It was also deeply insulting to
American Jews. And it will have consequences, but not those anticipated
by the McCain campaign. Since the effort was so crude, and easily
debunked, there will be no appreciable increase in American Jewish
At the same time, Arab American voters, already abandoning the GOP in
droves, will find more reason to do so. Which brings me to present the
following piece written by Nadine Wahab of the Arab American Institute.
In it, she presents the results of a new poll on Arab American voter
preferences in 2008. Since the poll was done before the "no Ma'am, (he's
not an Arab) he's a decent family man" episode and l'affaire Khalidi,
one might reasonably assume the 68 percent Obama, 27 percent McCain
final projected by the poll, may be even worse for the GOP - interesting
that despite all of the muck thrown about this year, and all of the
slights and blunders on all sides, Barack Obama will likely win near
identical huge majorities of both Arab American and American Jewish
A recent poll revealed a historic shift of Arab Americans support
towards the Democratic ticket. With the recent tendency of the campaigns
to use 'Arab' as a wedge issue, and Arab Americans as weapons aimed at
their opponents, this community has been galvanized.
With only days to go to in an election where pundits are talking about
record turnout, if the numbers hold, Arab Americans may be part of a
coalition that pushes several battleground states blue.
According to the Arab American Institute / Zogby International
nationwide poll of 504 likely Arab American voters, conducted between
October 10th and October 15th and released last week, 54 percent
identified themselves a Democrat, and 64 percent favor Sen. Barack Obama
in a two way race.
Support for Sen. Obama only drops by two percent when third-party
candidates are added. This is a change from an earlier poll conducted in
September, when a nine point drop showed that support for the Senator
was soft . This may be an indication of the recent success of the Obama
campaign to connect with the Arab American community on domestic
issues. 42 percent of those who support Sen. Obama did so because of his
domestic policies, only 15 percent are voting against McCain and 16
percent are party loyalist.
The AAI poll showed that while 27 percent of Arab Americans identify as
Republican, only 23 percent favored Sen. John McCain. Support for Sen.
McCain has dropped by 12 percent from the September poll.
Interestingly, while Sen. Obama leads in all sub-groups except Arab
American Republicans, Sen. McCain only receives 62 percent of that vote.
When leaners are added the AAI projects a final 68/27 Obama win among
Arab American voters.
With almost two-thirds of Arab Americans negatively impacted by the
recent economic crisis, it is no surprise that 79 percent named "Jobs
and/or the Economy" as on of the most important issues in this election.
69 percent felt that Sen. Obama handled the issue better then his
opponent, compared to 23 percent for Sen. McCain. This may explain the
shift in Arab American support toward the Democratic ticket, but it is
important to note that Sen. Obama fared better than his opponent across
the board. The closest margin, McCain's strong suit and Obama weakest
showing, "Terrorism and National Security", still showed a 20
percentage point spread, with Obama receiving 56 to
36 percent. This is a strong showing for Sen. Obama.
The Arab American population is estimated at over 3 million Nationwide.
Given thier higher rate of turn out on election day, Arab American
account for as much as five percent of the voters in Michigan are
Arab American, two percent in Virginia and Ohio, and about one percent
in Florida and Pennsylvania. As the parties continue to fight
over the electorate in these battle ground states, Arab American voters
can help change the electoral map.