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Romney Can Get Jewish Votes... If He Stands Up to the Tea Party

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"Why didn't Obama visit Israel?" "That speech he gave in Egypt... big mistake." "He should just say that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel."

Sounds like the testimonials for the Republican Jewish Coalition's new video series, Buyer's Remorse, featuring Jewish Obama supporters who are switching to Romney.

Here's the twist. All of the sentiments above were shared by Jews who love Obama and are desperate to see him win reelection.

The good news for Republicans is that their message seems to be getting across. Millions of dollars in advertising reinforced by free media will do that for you. The bad news? Even among voters who agree with them, their concerns about Obama's approach to Israel are far outweighed by their affection for the president and their fear of the Republican base.

When commentators say that candidate differences on Israel do not rank high among the voting priorities of American Jews during an election, this is part of what they mean. Voters like those who repeated the RJC critique do care deeply about Israel, but their concerns (misplaced, in my view) still doesn't supersede the economy, or Social Security and Medicare, or social issues. It doesn't outweigh their fear of the Tea Party.

The 10 to 15 percent of Jewish voters who are ostensibly up for grabs during this presidential election will not be moved by videos like "Buyer's Remorse" alone. It's great that Mitt Romney is willing to stand up to the Palestinians, they say, but will he stand up to those in his own party whose seem to view Jews as un-American?

The answer is, of course not. The last time a serious Republican presidential candidate did so was in 2000, when John McCain called Jerry Falwell and others "agents of intolerance." He lost the nomination to George W Bush. In 2008, determined not to make the same mistake twice, McCain chose Sarah Palin as his running mate. No single factor was more instrumental in convincing undecided Jewish voters to support Obama than Palin's presence on the Republican ticket.

Since then, the Tea Party has pushed the few remaining mainstream Republicans out of the party and forced others -- like Romney -- to reinvent themselves as "severely conservative," as the Republican nominee called himself.

So, what do "severe conservatives" believe that makes Jews so queasy? In short, they believe a cohort of un-American elites, based in New York and Los Angeles, conspire to keep Christian America down through their control of the lame-stream media, Ivy League universities, the ACLU and Wall Street.

Attacks on "coastal elites" or "Hollywood and New York" are heard by many Jews as attacks on us. Most Jews live in these cities and on the coasts, and many of us work in the professions (or support the organizations) so casually demonized by Tea Partiers. Many Jews aspire to Ivy League educations; we fought like hell to end restrictive quotas that kept Jews out of the Ivy League. So when the "Harvard faculty lounge" is held up for ridicule and contempt; when Obama is called an elitist snob for wanting kids to get a college education, we see an attack on both Jews and our "education first" values.

Woody Allen's Alvy Singer quote from more than 30 years ago still resonates: "Don't you see the rest of the country looks upon New York like we're left-wing, communist, Jewish, homosexual pornographers?"

Another wing of the Republican Party, led these days by Ron and Rand Paul, claims to be fighting against a banking conspiracy (End the Fed!) while promising to bring foreign aid home to America (why waste it on wars or aid or diplomacy?). Top that off with a desire to roll back basic civil rights protections -- laws that Jews fought for as shields against discrimination -- and you have a large number of Republicans whose agenda and culture are fundamentally at odds with most Jews.

Yes, there are some Jewish voters who may be disappointed with some of the President's decisions these past four years. But unless Mitt Romney shows a willingness to stand up to his own party's base, he will wake up on November 7 with no more than one in four Jewish votes.

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