Computer woes force Likud to extend hours in primary vote

Polls will remain open past midnight in Likud Party primary voting following computer malfunctions at several polling stations.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the chairman of the ruling Likud, made the announcement Sunday of the longer voting hours following malfunctions at several stations, including the 80 computerized voting systems at Jerusalem's main polling station at the International Convention Center.

The problems led to calls by party leaders to postpone the vote after voters were turned away at some polling stations or left without casting their ballots after waiting a long time.

The party's 123,351 members are voting to select the Knesset list ahead of the Jan. 22 national elections. The polls opened at 9 a.m.

Some 97 Likud candidates are competing for 25 realistic spots on the Likud's Knesset list.

Meanwhile, Yair Lapid, head of the newly formed centrist party Yesh Atid, or There is a Future, said Sunday that he had offered former Kadima Party head Tzipi Livni the second slot on his party's list, and promised that she would be a full partner in all major decisions.

“Splitting the centrist bloc is not good for Israel, and I am calling her to join forces and change the country together,” he wrote on his Facebook page.

Netanyahu congratulates Obama on re-election

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu congratulated U.S. President Barack Obama on Wednesday for winning a second term and said the strategic alliance between their two countries was “stronger than ever”.

“I will continue to work with President Obama to ensure the interests that are vital for the security of Israel's citizens,” Netanyahu, who has had a testy relationship with the U.S. leader, said in a short written statement.

One major rift between the two leaders has been their approach in dealing with Iran's nuclear aspirations, with the United States urging Netanyahu not to launch any go-it-alone military action.

Netanyahu faces his own electoral test in January, when Israel holds a national ballot that opinion polls predict his right-wing Likud party will win.

Netanyahu's defence minister, Ehud Barak, who was a frequent visitor to Washington over the past four years, said in his own statement he had no doubt Obama will continue his policies, which “fundamentally support Israel's security”.

“It is possible to overcome any differences in positions that may arise,” Barak said.

Josh Mandel falls to Sherrod Brown in Ohio

Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel failed in his bid to unseat Sen. Sherrod Brown.

Republicans hoping to win control of the U.S. Senate had placed great hope in Mandel, a former Marine who is Jewish. Brown is a strong ally of organized labor and a pillar of the Democratic Party's progressive wing.

Jewish Democrats Grayson and Frankel win in Florida

Jewish Democrats Lois Frankel and Alan Grayson won congressional seats in Florida.

Frankel, 64, a former member of the Florida House and an ex-mayor of West Palm Beach, defeated Adam Hasner, a former majority leader in the Florida state Senate who also is Jewish, on Tuesday.

Grayson, 54, the fiery liberal who had been unseated in the Republican electoral surge in 2010, returned to the House by defeating Todd Long in a newly created Orlando-area district.

Four more years (of bickering)

So the Jewish vote didn’t make much difference after all. Not even in Florida. Had Romney taken Florida, had he won this election, we could have argued that the 31 percent of Jews he was able to win over in the Sunshine State played an important role in his razor-thin victory. But he lost the election, Jewish gains notwithstanding. Thus, the first lesson, then, for Jewish Republicans like Sheldon Adelson should be as follows: If you have resources to spend on campaigning, if you are truly committed to the cause, spend your time and money assisting your party in winning over the people without whom elections cannot be won: Latinos. 

Saying the 2012 elections were not as important as the candidates (and many of us) said they were is easy. The two candidates were uninspiring, as is clear from the fact that neither of them was able to attract many crossovers from the other camp. Obama was supported by Democratic voters and Romney by Republicans. They masqueraded a heated debate over issues of great significance when, in fact, they were battling over a technicality: Who’s the better man to fix the economy – an issue most well-trained voters told pollsters is the “most important” for them. 

Believing the answers voters give is as dangerous as believing the candidates’ promises. Obama and Romney painted their race in ways favorable to their main cause – getting elected. But the voters were just as unreliable: They know what they need to say; they know what is expected of them. These elections early on were defined as being about “the economy” – hence, voters’ tendency to put the economy on top. However, putting the economy on top and then saying that Romney is the better candidate on the economy, and then giving Obama the White House, is exactly what American voters did, according to the exit polls. Elections are never about one issue and are almost always about how comfortable the electorate feels with the candidates. 

That more Jews felt comfortable with President Obama is not such a big surprise. No one really expected it to go any other way. It was also quite obvious that Obama will not win as strongly with Jewish voters as he did four years ago. As this article is being written, on Tuesday night, we don’t yet have all the detailed poll data that is scheduled to be released on Wednesday by both the Jewish Republican Jewish Coalition and by J Street pollster Jim Gerstein. However, early exit polls have revealed that Obama’s standings with Jews have declined to 70 percent of the vote. Did the vigorous campaign to peal away Obama Jewish voters work at all? Romney got 30 percent of the vote. And one suspects that both Jewish Democrats and Republicans will find a way to spin these results without admitting failure. 

They will be able to do it, among other reasons, because there’s never been true agreement on the percentage of the Jewish vote that went for Obama in 2008. Hence, there will be no agreement on the percentage of Jewish voters who’ve moved away from him and into the Republican column. A recent study argued that Obama’s actual Jewish number of 2008 was 74 percent — while the 2008 exit polls gave Obama 78 percent of the Jewish vote. So the scale of the decline depends how much you believe the new research. 

Those responsible for the new research want you to believe that this is the more serious analysis of the Jewish vote. But Republican Jews want you to believe that this study is a spin aimed at making Obama look better as his 2012 numbers drop. And they did drop: 8 percent fewer Jews voted for him, compared to the 2008 exit poll. Four percent fewer compared to the recent study. Whatever the final count, there’s no denying that the climb in Jewish Republican votes appears to be a continuation of a trend. In my book about the Jewish vote, I described the drop in the Republican Jewish vote since 1992 – in fact, I described the last two decades as the decades of the-Republican-Party-is-no-longer-an-option for Jews. But the graph of the Jewish vote for the Republican Party since that big drop of the early ’90s shows a slow but steady climb back to the party being an option.

On the morning of Election Day, I spent a couple of hours harassing Jewish voters in Beachwood Ohio, not far from Cleveland. These are precincts that went 71 percent-28 percent for Obama in 2008, 65 percent-35 percent for Kerry in 2004, and 77 percent-22 percent for Gore in 2000. I can’t tell you what the numbers will be like this time, but based on the dozen or so interviews I had time to do, it is likely that Romney got numbers in these precincts closer to those of the 2004 Bush than to the 2008 McCain. Possibly even higher. 

The story of the 2012 Jewish vote, then, is a story of a growing gap between the conservative wing of the community, a large part of it Orthodox, and the rest of the community, who remain loyal to the Democratic Party. Earlier this week, in Columbus, I made a pact with a local rabbi: I could ask any question and quote any answer, as long as I didn’t give away his identity. Not a hint, not a clue. Is it not problematic for a Jew in America to have such fear of exposing one’s political beliefs? – I asked him. The rabbi laughed. “You realize”, he said, “that my so-called fear has nothing to do with non-Jews – it is the Jews that I fear.” He then asked if I’d read Roger Cohen’s article in The New York Times about “The Jews of Cuyahoga County,” which, of course, I had. The rabbi didn’t like Cohen’s use of the word “ugly” at the outset of his article (“Things are getting ugly among the Jews of Cuyahoga County, with family splits and dinner invitations declined”), but he also gave the impression that at times things are, well, becoming ugly. Not for all Jews in Cuyahoga or Columbus, not in all families. But in some cases, it does – hence, the rabbi’s obsession about not wanting to be exposed. “If I get into political issues, I’m definitely going to alienate some people from one side or the other, and more likely from both sides.” These are days of tension and bickering and highly partisan spirit. These are days in which “hardly anyone can see both sides’ arguments.”

Having met and interviewed many Ohioan Jews during my week here, I discovered that it was easy to find Obama voters (“Is there even an alternative?” one Cleveland resident asked me), and also not very hard to find Romney voters (the easiest way: look for the Orthodox shul and the kosher deli), and was more rare, but still possible, to find the 2008-Obama-disappointee. But, truly, it was easier to find people who claim to know people disappointed with Obama than to find those disappointed people in person. “Yes, I have some friends that voted for Obama in 2008 and are now voting for Romney,” Jerry Mayer told me. Stewart Ain of The Jewish Week got a better quote from a Bret Caller: “I’ve had dozens and dozens of Jewish friends who voted for Obama in ’08 say to me that they are on the fence and will make a decision in the voting booth.”

And, one must admit, many of the Ohio Jews I met in recent days tended to think about Obama and Romney in the same dichotomist manner. Romney will “ban all abortions,” a weary Bev (or was it Deb? Forgive my insensitive Israeli ears) Hart explained, knowingly. Obama is “an enemy of Israel,” an angry Rob Gold told me. No article on the 2012 Jewish race can be concluded without some discussion of the Israel issue.

My first 2012 story on the U.S. election was published on Jan. 1, reported and written in Iowa, where Mitt Romney began his long journey to win the Republican primary election and become the nominee. I had a catchy headline for it: “Witnessing European Menace Invading Des Moines.” The only real foreign reference made by Romney in the political rally I attended that week “was not about the Middle East or even China,” I wrote back then. “Romney – and some of the other candidates as well – have made Europe a topic of political conversation. As in: If we continue to have policies like we have now, we might risk “ending up being like Europe.” I was reminded of this event and of that post, as I was listening on Sunday to Romney’s running mate, Paul Ryan, in a well-kept medium-size hanger, where he made a short landing in Mansfield, Ohio. Ryan was at his very best at that event, sharp and amicable. But he had no intention of talking about anything but the U.S. economy. 

I was waiting to hear a word or two about foreign affairs. Two days before an American election, as the whole world was watching, one would have been justified to expect at least a pretense interest on the part of the American candidates in what’s happening beyond America’s borders. But no such words ever quite materialized. Obama, when I saw him last week, seemed to have little interest in talking about foreign affairs. In fact, Obama made it a habit to tell American voters that electing him is important because he’s the candidate that will do “some nation building here in America.” Obama, like Romney, is an internationalist. But both of them felt a political need to make the world disappear in the final stretch of the election.  

For Israel, a less involved America is a convenience on some matters – such as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict – but really it’s a curse. Israel needs the United States to be leading the coalition against Iran, and needs the United States to project confidence and have influence in a region that becomes more volatile by the hour – recent exchanges of fire on the Syrian border being the most recent manifestation. Obama is likely not to have much appetite to be more engaged in the region, and even less appetite to have to deal with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, but will have no choice but to do it. 

Interestingly, not since Eisenhower has Israel had to make do with a president with whom it doesn’t quite get along for two consecutive terms. Carter, Ford and the first Bush – the three presidents at the top of Israel’s list of unfavorable presidents – were all one termers, annoying to Israel’s government, but gone quickly. With Obama, it will be eight years of bickering and mistrust and miscommunication, unless one of three things happens: If Netanyahu is not re-elected; if Obama or Netanyahu determine to put an end to the sour state of relations; or if the U.S. disengages. Option No. 1 will be an important component of Israel’s coming election – a tool that Netanyahu’s rivals are going to use in hopes of convincing Israelis that the relations with Obama are reason enough for them to replace the prime minister. Option No. 2 is the preferable option – the grown-up option – and hence the less likely one. Option No. 3 is the most dangerous of them all. Better for Obama and Netanyahu to keep the bickering going – and with it the involvement of the United States in Israel-related affairs. 

George McGovern, pacifist who wanted to bomb Auschwitz dies at 90

George McGovern is widely remembered for advocating immediate American withdrawal from Vietnam and sharp reductions in defense spending. Yet despite his reputation as a pacifist, the former United States senator and 1972 presidential candidate, who died Sunday at 90, did believe there were times when America should use military force abroad.

Case in point: the Allies’ failure to bomb Auschwitz, an episode with which McGovern had a little-known personal connection.

In June 1944, the Roosevelt administration received a detailed report about Auschwitz from two escapees who described the mass-murder process and drew diagrams pinpointing the gas chambers and crematoria. Jewish organizations repeatedly asked U.S. officials to order the bombing of Auschwitz and the railroad lines leading to the camp. The proposal was rejected on the grounds that it would require “considerable diversion” of planes that were needed elsewhere for the war effort. One U.S. official claimed that bombing Auschwitz “might provoke even more vindictive action by the Germans.”

Enter McGovern. In World War II, the 22-year-old son of a South Dakota pastor piloted a B-24 Liberator bomber. Among his targets: German synthetic oil factories in occupied Poland — some of them less than five miles from the Auschwitz gas chambers.

In 2004, McGovern spoke on camera for the first time about those experiences in a meeting organized by the David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies with Holocaust survivor and philanthropist Sigmund Rolat and filmmakers Stuart Erdheim and Chaim Hecht.

McGovern dismissed the Roosevelt administration’s claims about the diversion of planes. The argument was just “a rationalization,” he said, noting that no diversions would have been needed when he and other American pilots already were flying over that area.

The Allies did divert military resources for other reasons. For example, President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1943 ordered the Army to divert money and manpower to rescue artwork and historic monuments in Europe’s battle zones. The British provided ships to bring 20,000 Muslims on a religious pilgrimage from Egypt to Mecca in the middle of the war. Gen. George Patton even diverted U.S. troops in Austria to save 150 of the famous Lipizzaner dancing horses.

“There is no question we should have attempted … to go after Auschwitz,” McGovern said in the interview. “There was a pretty good chance we could have blasted those rail lines off the face of the earth, which would have interrupted the flow of people to those death chambers, and we had a pretty good chance of knocking out those gas ovens.”

Even if there were a danger of accidentally harming some of the prisoners, “it was certainly worth the effort, despite all the risks,” McGovern said, because the prisoners were already “doomed to death” and an Allied bombing attack might have slowed the mass-murder process, thus saving many more lives. 

At the time, 16-year-old Elie Wiesel was part of a slave-labor battalion stationed just outside the main camp of Auschwitz. Many years later, in his best-selling book “Night,” Wiesel described a U.S. bombing raid on the oil factories that he witnessed.

“[I]f a bomb had fallen on the blocks [the prisoners’ barracks], it alone would have claimed hundreds of victims on the spot. But we were no longer afraid of death; at any rate, not of that death,” Wiesel wrote. “Every bomb that exploded filled us with joy and gave us new confidence in life. The raid lasted over an hour. If it could only have lasted 10 times 10 hours!”

At the time, McGovern and his fellow pilots had no idea what was happening in Auschwitz.

“I attended every briefing that the air force gave to us,” he said. “I heard everyone, from generals on down. I never heard once mentioned the possibility that the United States Air Force might interdict against the gas chambers.”

Ironically, in one raid, several stray bombs from McGovern’s squadron missed the oil factory it was targeting and accidentally struck an SS sick bay, killing five SS men. 

McGovern said that if his commanders had asked for volunteers to bomb the death camp, “whole crews would have volunteered.” Most soldiers understood that the war against the Nazis was not just a military struggle but a moral one, as well. In his view they would have recognized the importance of trying to interrupt the mass-murder process, even if it meant endangering their own lives in a risky bombing raid.

Indeed, the Allies’ airdrops of supplies to the Polish Home Army rebels in Warsaw in August 1944 were carried out by volunteers, who agreed to undertake the missions despite the hazards of flying their planes to areas outside their normal range.

McGovern noted that he remained an ardent admirer of Roosevelt.

“Franklin Roosevelt was a great man and he was my political hero,” he said in the interview. “But I think he made two great mistakes in World War II.” One was the internment of Japanese Americans, the other was the decision “not to go after Auschwitz. … God forgive us for that tragic miscalculation.” 

In contrast with his pacifist image, McGovern emphasized that, for him, the central lesson of the U.S. failure to bomb Auschwitz was the need for “a determination that never again will we fail to exercise the full capacity of our strength in that direction.”

He added, “We should have gone all out [against Auschwitz], and we must never again permit genocide.” 

Rafael Medoff is founding director of the David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies and the author or editor of 15 books about the Holocaust and American Jewish history.

A week on the Florida campaign trail

Day One: Departing Israel

Spending a week in Florida on the eve of a presidential election has become a habit for me — one I cherish. Meeting the elderly women who suddenly become interested in politics; attending synagogues, to which the candidates flock in droves to speak; watching the hurried traveling convoys of dignitaries and emissaries and surrogates making their last-minute pitches; enjoying the hospitable weather.

As I left Israel to come here, the Knesset was about to officially disperse. Soon enough, Israel will have its own round of elections, and the speeches made by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Shaul Mofaz, the opposition leader, were no more than election speeches.

The American public views Netanyahu in a positive light, according to a Gallup poll taken during the summer. Israel is also viewed positively by the American public, even more so than Netanyahu. Thus, as the two American presidential candidates play the Israel card in their public appearances, they play both offense and defense in somewhat tricky ways.

Consider this: For Mitt Romney, invoking Netanyahu’s name is a way of putting President Barack Obama in a tough spot. Naturally, Obama doesn’t want to acknowledge that his relations with Netanyahu are bad, that he can barely stand his presence and can hardly stomach the need to maintain contact with him. Such an admission would make matters even worse policy-wise, and might not fly with the voters who tell pollsters that they view Netanyahu positively. It might even seem problematic to voters who do not like Netanyahu but understand that having a contentious relationship with him does not serve any purpose.

Thus, when Romney calls forth the name “Netanyahu,” the only possible and credible response he can get from Obama is “Israel.” Obama doesn’t speak much about the prime minister. On the other hand, speaking about “Israel” is good for Obama, because Israel, as I mentioned above, is more popular than Netanyahu. Israel is what pro-Israel voters are concerned with. Israel is the way for Obama to circumvent “Netanyahu” or “the government of Israel.” The president has made it a habit to constantly express his support for the country, while constantly, if more subtly, expressing his dislike of its democratically elected leadership.

Day Two: Boca Raton

I began a big-fish debate night with the little fish: Florida congressional candidates speaking to a Jewish crowd. It was 7 p.m. on Oct. 16, and at the entrance to Temple Beth El of Boca Raton, dozens of young, Jewish campaign volunteers were waving signs at the coming cars, distracting drivers, threatening to scratch their side windows.

Volunteers for Republican congressional candidate Adam Hasner were mostly yarmulke-wearing young men who seemed markedly Orthodox. If their presence at the forum is any indication of Hasner’s chances — he might have one. But it could also be a sign that Hasner’s young, Jewish supporters are the ones with the commitment and the enthusiasm — though not necessarily the numbers. It was, after all, just one evening, one event, one crowded temple. Crowded, but not packed. (Well, is a temple ever packed except on Yom Kippur?)

Rabbi Dan Levin began the evening with a couple of words about the houses of Hillel and Shammai, of which the Talmud says: “These and these are both equally the words of the living God.” Which, naturally, reminded me of Obama and Romney. And if their words weren’t quite godly in their second debate, the heat and combative manner could certainly be compared to the Beit Hillel-Beit Shammai battle of ideas.

And, of course, moving from the Beth El forum to the Long Island debate didn’t feel like a huge leap. The Forward’s Gal Beckerman tweeted toward the end: “With questions from Carol Goldberg and Jeremy Epstein bookending this debate, it is officially the Jewiest debate ever.” Noah Pollack asked: “Was that a town hall debate or a meeting of Beth Shalom Congregation of Five Towns?”

More than an hour passed before the candidates got a question on foreign policy — Libya. Until then, immigration and a passing mention of China were the closest we got to the world beyond America’s borders. If anyone was still in need of any proof that American voters — Jews included — care in this election cycle only about the economy and jobs (no, not about Israel, and I also didn’t hear any question on Iran), this debate was proof enough for me.

And yes, the Libya moment was one of the highlights of the evening. But it was also more about America, not about the world. It was less about the right way to fix Libya or the guidelines for intervention in foreign wars and much more about Libya becoming a political football.

During presidential campaign, engaging Iranian Jews at 30 Years After event

By the time former Congressman Mel Levine took the stage as an official surrogate for President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign at a gathering of mostly young Iranian Americans, the ballroom at downtown’s Millennium Biltmore Hotel was more than half empty. 

Most of the more than 1,000 attendees at a daylong Oct. 14 civic action conference organized by 30 Years After (30YA) had left before the after-dinner speeches by Levine and his counterpart, David Javdan, who spoke on behalf of Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney. 

Not Shala Kohan, though. 

After a full day of panel discussions about the challenges, opportunities and choices facing publicly minded Iranian-American Jews, Kohan sat at a table near the back of the room with her husband, her two daughters and one granddaughter, dissecting Levine’s every word and offering a running commentary. 

“We haven’t climbed out at all!” Kohan said after Levine touted the Obama administration’s record on job growth since the 2008 economic collapse. When Levine said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had “called President Obama” to help arrange the rescue of six Israelis trapped in the Israeli embassy in Cairo in September 2011, Kohan responded, “He called America.” 

Levine knew the audience wasn’t going to be particularly friendly to an ally of the Democratic president; his joke about how the 30YA crowd “would be a hotbed of Obama support” didn’t even draw a laugh. 

Javdan, who served as general counsel in the Small Business Administration under President George W. Bush, drew applause from the remnants of the crowd even before he made a single policy statement on behalf of Romney.

“Our community understands implicitly that the key element of freedom is economic freedom, that the American dream is about being your own boss and controlling your own destiny,” Javdan said to more applause. “Drowning our small businesses with higher tax rates than corporations pay and binding them in endless red tape and regulations is no way to go.”

Although the campaign surrogates were given the last slot of the night, the hotly contested presidential campaign had been simmering just beneath the surface of many of the public and private conversations throughout the day, and the subject had worked its way into panel discussions, though often indirectly. 

During a discussion among Jewish elected officials, Rep. Howard Berman offered a vigorous defense of the Obama administration’s work to secure sanctions against Iran. In the context of another conversation about improving public perception of the Iranian-American community, panelist David Peyman, a deputy attorney general with the Department of Justice, wondered why the Iranian-American Jewish community hasn’t commanded the kind of attention from the two candidates on Iranian issues that the Cuban-American community commands on Cuban relations. 

And every conference attendee received, along with the day’s schedule of events, a form letter to sign addressed to Obama and Romney urging the president and his Republican rival to toughen their positions on Iran by agreeing to impose a “full economic blockade” of the regime. 

Even so, most of the discussion at the conference was dedicated to subjects that weren’t quite partisan, even though political issues sometimes came up, even when presenters expressed opposing positions. 

Foreign policy “insiders,” including former ambassadors Dennis Ross and Mark Wallace, presented briefings about Iran, Israel and United States in the morning, and four candidates running for mayor of the City of Los Angeles — a nonpartisan position — were on hand to make their cases in the afternoon. 

Rabbi David Wolpe spoke not about Iran, as he had in his Rosh Hashanah sermon at Sinai Temple, but rather addressed more personal matters facing young Iranian-Americans and their community — struggling with one’s ego, figuring out how to best use one’s money and the search for love.

When Berman and his congressional colleague Rep. Henry Waxman — both of them facing tougher opposition than usual this election season — appeared on stage together, no mention was made of Bill Bloomfield, an independent who has spent more than $2 million of his own money on his race against Waxman, or of Rep. Brad Sherman, who is leading Berman in the polls and had appeared at the 30YA conference earlier in the day.  

The two long-serving congressmen together presented a commendation to Shervin Lalezary, the Iranian-American Jewish reserve deputy with the Los Angeles County Sheriff who caught the suspect now charged with 100 arson-related counts connected with a series of fires that burned around Los Angeles in the days leading up to and following New Year’s Eve 2011. 

Lalezary was featured in national and local press when he made the arrest in January and he has been honored by 30YA on at least one other occasion this year. He serves as a model for the five-year-old group — a successful lawyer who also volunteers to advance the public good. 

But if Lalezary is one model of civic action put forward by 30YA, Assemblyman Mike Feuer, who appeared on a panel titled “Why Politics Matters” at the conference, offered up another, more political suggestion. 

Feuer, with the support of 30YA, has passed legislation in Sacramento that puts economic pressure on the Iranian regime by taking action at the state level. Because of term limits, Feuer is now running for Los Angeles city attorney next year; if he doesn’t win, he and possibly two of his co-panelists — Berman and Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, who announced in September that he will retire at the end of his term — could all find themselves out of office by 2014. 

With all eyes on the race for the White House, Feuer encouraged the conference attendees to consider upping their political involvement at the local level, as well.

“Find someone in whom you believe,” he said, “and get involved in one of their campaigns.”

In battleground state Ohio, Jewish voters favoring Obama handily, AJC poll shows

An American Jewish Committee survey of Jewish voters in Ohio, a battleground state, has the community favoring President Obama in similar numbers to polls elsewhere.

The survey released Wednesday by the AJC has Ohio's Jews favoring Obama 64 percent to 29 percent for Mitt Romney, the Republican presidential candidate.

With a 6.4 percent margin of error, the numbers are commensurate with two other AJC polls last month that had Obama beating Romney 69 to 25 percent among Florida Jewish voters and 65 to 24 nationally.

As in those polls, the economy and health care topped voters' concerns.

The phone survey of 238 registered Jewish voters in Ohio was conducted Sept. 13-30 by QEV Analytics.

Republican Jewish Coalition begins $5 million TV ad campaign

The Republican Jewish Coalition launched a $5 million television advertising campaign aimed at Jewish voters in swing states.

The campaign started Wednesday and runs through Nov. 5 in cable and broadcast TV markets with sizable Jewish populations in Florida, Nevada, Ohio and Pennsylvania. The first RJC ad is a shortened version of one of the group’s “buyer’s remorse” videos, which featured disillusioned Obama voters.

“This ad highlights the 'buyer's remorse' felt by many in the Jewish community, who voted for Obama four years ago, but are now disillusioned with his economic policies and his policies toward Israel,” the RJC’s executive director, Matt Brooks, said in a statement Wednesday. “These ads, and the stories of the people in them, give voice to the nagging doubts that many Jewish voters feel about President Obama. To underscore that point, numerous polls have shown an erosion in Jewish support for the President.”

Unreleased Gallup survey data found 70 percent of Jewish voters saying they would support Obama to 25 percent for Republican nominee Mitt Romney. The data, which were reported by Buzzfeed, is from Gallup’s daily tracking polls from July 1 through Sept. 10 and is based on a sample size of 828 registered Jewish voters. The margin of error is plus or minus 4 percentage points.

In July it was reported that casino magnate Sheldon Adelson and other RJC board members would be funding a $6.5 million effort by the group to woo Jewish voters, including the TV ad campaign. Earlier this month, the RJC began a voter outreach effort in Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania, and launched a new billboard campaign in South Florida featuring the slogan “Obama … Oy Vey!!”

3 Views on the GOP Hammering Obama on Israel

This column went to press in advance of the Democratic National Convention. Please see the Rosner’s Domain blog at for updates. I also will be writing about the Democrats in next week’s newspaper. 

‎1.‎ President Obama came under attack yesterday for his many sins –as interpreted by ‎GOP candidates – among them the mistreatment of Israel. Senator John McCain, the ‎GOP 2008 candidate, said that the US “can’t afford to cause our friends and allies, ‎from Latin America to Europe to Asia to the Middle East and especially in Israel, a ‎nation under existential threat, to doubt America’s leadership”. Have no doubt: When ‎it comes to the “existential threat” Jerusalem indeed doubts America’s leadership (or, ‎as David Horovitz put it: “Everything you have heard about the personal hostility ‎between Obama and Netanyahu is true, and then some, according to the insiders from ‎both the pro- and anti-Iran strike camps. The prime minister thinks the president is ‎unreliable and misguided on matters Israeli, Middle Eastern and Islamist”). Whether ‎the US can’t afford such doubt is another matter. Condoleezza Rice, in her remarks, ‎also said that ““Our friends and allies must be able to trust us. From Israel to Poland ‎to the Philippines to Colombia and across the world – they must know that we are ‎reliable and consistent and determined”. But she didn’t quite explain why – what ‎might happen if these countries cease to have trust in the US? I must agree with ‎Foreign Policy’s Josh Rogin: “She said that under a Romney administration, the ‎United States will remain the most powerful country on Earth but didn’t get into the ‎details of how the former Massachusetts governor would tackle critical challenges ‎such as the crisis in Syria, Iran’s nuclear program, or the Middle East conflict”.‎


Adelsons donate to PAC supporting Rabbi Shmuley Boteach’s campaign

Casino mogul and philanthropist Sheldon Adelson and his wife have contributed to an independent super PAC to support Rabbi Shmuley Boteach’s congressional candidacy.

Adelson and his wife, Miriam, each gave $250,000 to a new independent super political action committee, the Patriot Prosperity PAC, which is supporting Boteach’s New Jersey congressional run in a newly redrawn voting district against Democratic U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell, an eight-term incumbent, The Wall Street Journal reported late Monday, citing “people close to the Adelsons and the PAC.”

The Adelsons previously have given directly to the Boteach campaign, according to the newspaper. Sheldon Adelson and Boteach are also personal friends, as well as mutual acquaintances with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the newspaper reported.

Through political action committees, Adelson and his wife have funneled $10 million toward presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s election effort, after spending an equal amount on the failed campaign of Newt Gingrich. Adelson has said he’s willing to spend up to $100 million to defeat President Obama.

Adelson has given nearly $100 million to Birthright Israel, the program that brings Jews ages 18-26 to Israel for free. He gave a $25 million gift to the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem in 2006. From 2007 to 2009, he funded a $4.5 million strategic studies center in his name at the Shalem Center, a think tank in Jerusalem. His relatively smaller donations have helped bolster groups such as the Zionist Organization of America.

Boteach’s stated platform includes support for school vouchers, a flat tax and making marital counseling tax deductible in an effort to lower the divorce rate. He has criticized what he sees as an excessive Republican focus on sexual issues such as gay marriage.

Boteach, who once was affiliated with the Chabad movement, bills himself as “America’s Rabbi.” He hosts a show on TLC called “Shalom in the Home” and is the author of several books, including “Kosher Sex,” “Kosher Adultery,” “The Kosher Sutra” and, most recently, “Kosher Jesus.”

How Ryan will motivate Jewish voters

Mitt Romney’s choice of Rep. Paul Ryan to be his running mate on the Republican ticket will help win Jewish votes.  For the Democrats.

Ryan may help Romney shore up support among Tea Partiers and evangelicals who don’t really trust his claims of conversion to their cause, but it is those issues that will cost him Jewish support.

Like everyone else in the Republican primaries, Romney ran hard to the right and was expected to follow the Nixon dictum and pivot toward the center for the general election.  Even senior advisors expected that when one spoke of the Etch-A-Sketch campaign.  But instead Romney moved further to the right with his choice of a running mate.

Turnout is critical and each party will be using Ryan to motivate its base to go to the polls, but for Republicans that appeal to hardline conservatives could cost them votes among undecided Jewish voters and independents in the center whose support will be critical in an election as close as this one appears to be.

Romney’s effort to make Israel a partisan wedge issue in this campaign is overrated.  Jews will still vote overwhelmingly Democratic again this year and it is questionable whether the GOP can draw off enough of their votes to make a difference in battleground states like Ohio, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Medicare-sensitive Florida. His real goal isn’t really votes anyway. It’s big bucks from conservative, deep-pocket donors who put Israel at the top of their agenda.

Foreign and defense policies are the Romney-Ryan ticket’s weak spots.  Neither man has any foreign policy experience — Romney’s recent overseas trip showed he’s not ready for prime time in that realm — and their combined military experience constitutes running down the gangplank on a mothballed World War II battleship Saturday morning to announce the young Wisconsin congressman’s selection.

While Republicans argue that Ryan’s presence on the ticket will enhance its focus on jobs and the economy, in reality it will shift the focus to his budget proposals that would significantly alter Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and a host of other entitlement programs high on the Jewish agenda.

Romney has praised the Ryan budget as “marvelous” and said if he were president and it landed on his desk, he would sign it.  Translation:  He just bought it and made it his own.

Campaign aides scampered to distance Romney from the Ryan proposals, saying he’d have his own plan once elected, but his longstanding aversion to providing any specifics leaves the Ryan budget — now the Ryan-Romney budget — to fill the vacuum and provide Democrats a very inviting target for hard-hitting attack ads.

Ryan’s proposals call for cutting funding for social programs so deeply that the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and a national group of nuns have publicly criticized it as harmful to the neediest in society.

The National Jewish Democratic Council, a partisan group, noted that “A broad array of Jewish groups have criticized elements of Ryan’s budget proposals, although without naming him.”

Ryan, who chairs the House Budget Committee, is one of the most conservative members of the Republican Caucus.  The bishops and nuns may not like his plans to cut programs that “serve poor and vulnerable people,” but, unlike most Jewish voters, they do like his hardline views on abortion, gay marriage and reproductive rights.

Most damaging to the ticket may be his proposals to privatize Social Security, transform Medicare into a voucher system and turn Medicaid over to the states through block grants.

Democrats have dusted off their mantra and you’ll be hearing it a lot:  Romney and Ryan want to “end Medicare as we know it.”

Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who chairs the Democratic National Committee and is Jewish, said “families and seniors in my home state of Florida want no part of a Romney-Ryan economic scheme that puts millionaires ahead of Medicare.”

Imagine if George W. Bush had gotten his way in 2005 when he proposed privatizing Social Security by allowing contributors to put their money into the stock market instead of the government trust fund.  Much of that money would have been lost when the Bush administration plunged the country into its deepest recession ever.

Social Security is the proverbial third rail of politics and Romney may have just stepped on it.

The Ryan-Romney budget calls for more tax cuts for millionaires like Romney and his fat-cat contributors while making Draconian cuts in federal spending on food safety, energy research, environmental protection, infrastructure, college tuition aid, food stamps, prescription drug coverage, workplace safety, women’s health coverage, consumer protection, product safety and the like.

Ryan could do more to keep Jewish voters in the Democratic column than any other single factor in this election.  Republicans will try to avoid specifics about the impact of Romney-Ryan policies and they will tout Ryan’s courage in tackling tough fiscal issues like entitlements, but voters like their entitlements (not so much yours, but they like their own), and if they fear Ryan and Romney will take them away, they’ll vote Democratic.  Again.

Jewish voters, with their strong affinity for programs serving the needy and the elderly, could be the first to punch the “no sale” button on the Romney-Ryan ticket.

©2012 Douglas M. Bloomfield

White House agrees with Netanyahu on sanctions, calls for patience

White House officials agreed with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s assessment that sanctions have not set back Iran’s suspected nuclear weapons program, but counseled patience.

“We completely agree with the prime minister’s assessment that Iran has failed to make that choice and that is absolutely a disappointment,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said Wednesday.

Netanyahu, meeting Sunday with Mitt Romney, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, expressed skepticism about the sanctions.

“We have to be honest and say that all the diplomacy and sanctions so far have not set back the Iranian program by one iota,” he told Romney.

The Obama administration has been making the case for months to Netanyahu that he should delay any plans to strike Iran until it exhausts peaceful options.

Asked about Netanyahu’s comments in a call Tuesday with reporters, Ben Rhodes, the U.S. deputy national security adviser, also agreed with the Israeli leader.

“We continue to be dissatisfied, as Prime Minister Netanyahu is, with Iran’s continued failure to live up to its international obligations,” he said.

Rhodes said, however, that the sanctions were having a dire impact on Iran’s economy and suggested more time was needed to assess whether they would move Iran’s leadership to agree to terms for greater transparency about its nuclear activities.

“What we see today is not just a unified international community, but you see sharp divisions within the Iranian political system, far more so than we have seen in many years,” Rhodes said. “And I think that is a testament to the pressure that they’re under.”

Rhodes said that what the Obama administration has accomplished “is a steady ratcheting up the pressure that is increasing the cost for the Iranians in failing to make the right decisions. And until they do shift course, we will continue to look for ways to increase the impact.”

Sarah Silverman’s ‘Indecent Proposal’ to Sheldon Adelson and what that means for modern politics

By the time you read this, you probably will have watched Sarah Silverman in her underwear, demonstrating a lesbian sex act with her dog.

Because that’s the way politics works these days.

Silverman wrote and stars in a short video, called “Scissor Sheldon,” posted at, in which she offers to, hmm, make casino magnate Sheldon Adelson very happy if he donates $100 million to the campaign of Barack Obama, instead of to Mitt Romney.

Adelson, the owner of The Venetian hotel and casino and one of the world’s richest men, has declared he is willing to spend that much money to help get the Republican candidate elected president.

“Sheldon, I have a proposal for you, and, I’m serious, look at me,” Silverman says to the camera. What follows — her proposal — is not really quotable in this newspaper, though, trust me, this video will introduce more young people to politics than student council.

The short video went online on the afternoon of July 16. By the time I saw it, early the next morning, it already had 11,000 “likes.” Major news outlets were covering it. It was wallpapered across my Facebook and Twitter accounts. Viral? Viruses could only wish.

The enormously popular, self-described “Jewess” comedian has used satirical political video before to great effect. In 2008, she launched The Great Schlep, urging young Jews to go to Florida to convince their grandparents to vote for Obama.

Story continues after the jump. (Warning: Explicit video)

Video courtesy of SchlepLabs

This time, she has once again teamed up with activists Ari Wallach and Mik Moore, co-founders of The Great Schlep. They run a pro-Obama super PAC with the anodyne name the Jewish Council for Education & Research (JCER). Its main backer is Alexander Soros, the 27-year-old New York University grad who also happens to be the son of George Soros.

“The most important political office is that of private citizen,” Supreme Court Justice Louis D. Brandeis once said — and his quote is the opening line on the Web page explaining JCER.

Wallach and Moore say their goal is to juice the campaigns of people they believe in by inspiring young Jewish voters to get involved.

“JCER is motivated by a deep love for the Jewish community and by a desire to ensure that Jews have access to accurate information as they engage in the electoral process,” the mission statement says.

For prior generations, that might have meant walking precincts, door to door, delivering speeches to Hadassah groups or passing out bumper stickers. Now, you submit your ideas on how to support Obama by using social media, humor and celebrity, and the super PAC picks the ones it likes best — like Silverman’s — and then produces and disseminates it. The Great Schlep generated 300 million impressions — at a cost of next to nothing. That’s a lot of precinct walking.

Merging politics with sex and celebrity used to be something only politicians did, after they were elected. Moore and Wallach have discovered it works even better before. Their successful campaigns leap far beyond the Jewish community and create national conversations. In the case of “Scissor Sheldon,” Moore said he hopes it will lead to a conversation on the role of unbridled political contributions in American elections and the outsized impact a billionaire like Adelson can have.

But here’s what makes me squirm — and it’s not at all Silverman’s offer — which, in her signature style, comes across as more adorable than raunchy.

It’s their relentless focus on one man — Adelson. The truth behind Adelson’s giving is that the entire system of unlimited, unaccountable campaign financing from so-called 527 organizations to the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision in 2010 is the single greatest threat to our democracy. Everybody who takes part — from Adelson to the secretive billionaire Tea Party funders, the Koch Brothers, Obama, Romney and also Alexander Soros — is part of the problem.

How is Adelson worse than Alexander Soros? At least Adelson steps out of the shadows and shoots off his mouth — as when he told that his former crush, Newt Gingrich, had “reached the end of the line.” Adelson makes his agenda clear. Politically, he and I may be far apart — but he is no hidden puppet master.

But the “Scissor Sheldon” Web site paints him to be exactly that. The spare site offers up a single, rather uncomplimentary photo of Adelson. On the page under the heading “Who Is the $100 Million Man?” you can find a 10-point list of all of Adelson’s supposed transgressions. It paints Adelson in an entirely one-dimensional way — a caricature — and lets others who dump swill in the political trough off the hook.

I get why Silverman chose to address Adelson. It’s personal, the way Silverman looks her landsman in the eye. This is like The Great Schlep, and he’s Super Zayde.  Fortunately, we American Jews live in a time and in a country where we can feel perfectly safe and secure attacking one another using Der Stürmer — like iconography. Yes, “Scissor Sheldon” will provide a Jewish National Fund-sized forest of kindling to ignite every Jew-hater out there — but those freaks will hate us anyway.

My greater concern is that unlike, say, Stephen Colbert’s masterful Colbert super PAC shtick, in which he used the same broken laws to create his own unaccountable super PAC, the “Scissor Sheldon” bit won’t go beyond Adelson.

In fact, by the time you read this, this week’s big viral campaign may already be last week’s news.

Unless, of course, Sheldon Adelson says “yes.”

Sheldon Adelson gives Romney super-PAC $10 million

Sheldon Adelson gave a pro-Mitt Romney super-PAC $10 million.

The donation to Restore Our Future, a political action committee that works parallel to the Romney campaign, was reported by multiple media on Wednesday and fulfills the casino magnate’s promise to throw his weight behind whomever was the Republican presidential nominee.

Earlier in the primaries campaign, similar infusions of cash helped prop up Newt Gingrich’s effort to topple Romney from his front-runner status.

Adelson has said multiple times that a candidate’s support for Israel is critical to whether he gives and how much.

Romney and Adelson met last month.

Rothman defeated in primary battle

Rep. Steve Rothman (D-N.J.), a veteran Jewish member of the U.S. House of Representatives, lost his primary election bid against another incumbent, Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.).

Rothman, who has served the 9th district in northerastern New Jersey since 1997, conceded late Tuesday night. He said he would not run for political office in the forseeable future.

The decennial redrawing of New Jersey districts prompted Rothman to move in order to run in the redrawn 9th district against Pascrell, rather than face a popular Republican, Scott Garrett, in the 5th district, where his old home is now located. Pascrell’s old district was the 8th, but with the redrawing, his residence is now in 9th.

Rothman had hoped for a win because much of the redrawn 8th covered his old 9th district.

The race with Pascrell devolved into bitter exchanges, with Rothman staking out more liberal ground on issues like immigration and abortion.

Israel featured large in the race.

Pascrell refused to denounce some Arab American activists who made an issue of Rothman’s pro-Israel record, and some Rothman surrogates accused Pascrell of not showing sufficient support for the state, for instance in signing a 2010 letter criticizing the blockade of the Gaza Strip by Egypt and Israel.

Rothman was seen as an important pro-Israel player because of his position on the armed services subcommittee of the U.S. House of Representatives Appropriations Committee.

He had helped pass increased funding for Israel’s missile defenses.

The National Jewish Democratic Council said it was “saddened” by Rothman’s loss.

“He has done a remarkable amount to strengthen the relationship between the United States and Israel, and has been a leader on a number of domestic issues.” NJDC said in a statement. We thank him for his 16 years of service to his country and constituents, and wish him the best of luck in his future endeavors. We also congratulate Representative Bill Pascrell on tonight’s win, and we look forward to continuing to work together in the future.”

Pascrell now faces celebrity author Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, who won the Republican nomination on Tuesday.

Susan Shelley: Berman-Sherman’s Republican Jewish opponent

Earlier this month, when the Los Angeles Daily News announced its endorsements in the San Fernando Valley’s 30th District Congressional race, the newspaper tapped two Jewish candidates — but not the same two candidates whom voters have been hearing so much about.

Along with its endorsement of Rep. Howard Berman of Van Nuys — who is, thanks to redistricting, facing off against another Democratic incumbent, Rep. Brad Sherman — the paper also endorsed Susan Shelley, a first-time Republican candidate.

Democrats outnumber Republicans two to one in the 30th District, and with three Republicans on the ticket, the Daily News called Shelley “a long shot” in the so-called June 5 primary, which will allow all voters, regardless of party, to vote for any candidate, regardless of party affiliation.

Still, the editorial board called Shelley “exactly the type of GOP candidate California needs.”

“Like many Californians,” the endorsement said, “she’s conservative where it counts (on fiscal policy and personal liberty issues) and liberal about social policy (she’s pro-choice, for example).”

“I don’t think the government should control your body; I do not think the government should be in your bedroom,” Shelley said in a recent interview with The Journal. She described her views on such subjects as “socially libertarian, socially ‘leave-us-alone.’ ”

While she is as much a fiscal conservative as any in the Tea Party caucus, Shelley’s support for marriage equality for same-sex couples and her pro-choice stance have placed her on a collision course with some of the more established forces in the Republican Party.

In March, the Los Angeles County Republican Party endorsed another candidate, Mark Reed, a businessman and actor who unsuccessfully ran against Sherman in 2010. California no longer holds party-based primaries, and Shelley believes that endorsement was made, in part, because of her moderate social views.

But even if that’s what pushed the Republican Party away, Shelley believes her mix of political positions will win her fans among Jewish voters in the Valley.

When it comes to Israel, a country Shelley has not visited, she stands staunchly against anyone who would minimize the Iranian threat to the Jewish state.

“I’m sensitive to the fact that bad things can happen,” Shelley said, “and they happen to the Jews first, more often than not.”

A writer and former game-show producer, Shelley is the creator of the “tidbits” word puzzle. Many newspapers that used to carry the puzzle, including the Los Angeles Times’ now-defunct Valley edition, have since stopped; still, she creates a new puzzle each week for distribution on her Web site.

Born in Chicago, Shelley moved to the Valley with her family while she was in high school. A reliable Republican voter since 1980, Shelley, who declined to state her age, was actually a registered Democrat for most of her adult life.

“We were Jewish, Chicago, registered Democrats,” Shelley said. “In California, there wasn’t much going on in the Republican Party, so if you wanted to pick a candidate for Senate or the House, the primary to vote in was the Democratic primary.”

In 2008, that changed.

“The Democratic Party was going too far left for me; I couldn’t stand it anymore,” she said, sitting in a large room at Los Angeles Mission College set up for a candidate debate later that afternoon. “The talk about health care being a right instead of a commodity that has to be paid for bothered me. I’m a liberty person, and I believe in freedom.”

Shelley admits to having minimal political experience in her stump speeches. In 2010, she volunteered as communications director for Republican David Benning, who in 2010 narrowly missed the chance to challenge Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Beverly Hills) when he finished second in the Republican primary. In August 2011, when Benning decided not to run again this year, Shelley jumped into the 30th District race.

Deciding to run for Congress was easy; getting validation as a viable candidate turned out to be somewhat more difficult for Shelley.

When Shelley learned she would not be included in a candidates debate sponsored by this newspaper last February, an event that included Sherman, Berman and Reed, she filed a formal complaint with the Internal Revenue Service against The Jewish Journal’s parent company, TRIBE Media Corp., alleging that by excluding her, the company was acting to advance Berman’s candidacy and thereby overstepping the limitations placed on nonprofit publishers.

“I did not feel that there was any valid reason to include [Reed] and exclude me,” Shelley said. “I felt it was probably because a Jewish woman perhaps could be seen as an attractive alternative to the incumbents by the Jewish community.”

When he spoke of the decision to the Los Angeles Times in early February, Rob Eshman, The Journal’s publisher and editor-in-chief, listed a number of criteria — including fundraising numbers, having a campaign organization and having been included in polls — that Shelley and another candidate had failed to meet in order to qualify for the debate.

“We have limited resources, and people have limited time,” Eshman told the Times at the time. “You want to include people who have a shot. … You can’t [have a viable campaign] with just a Web site. It really does cost money.”

Data released since then suggest Shelley continues to be a very long shot.

In March, all seven of the candidates running in the June 5 primary — including Shelley — were included in a poll conducted by the Sherman campaign. Shelley polled at 5 percent — behind Reed, who polled at 12 percent, but one point ahead of Navraj Singh, a Republican candidate who has already made two unsuccessful congressional bids, losing to Sherman in 2008 and to Reed in the Republican primary in 2010.

According to documents obtained from the Federal Election Commission (FEC) in April, Shelley’s campaign, at the time she filed her complaint with the IRS, had spent just $227, on campaign buttons. She also had loaned her campaign about $200, about half of which was spent on expenses associated with her campaign’s Web site.

The FEC documents also show that as of March 31, the largest single donation Shelley’s campaign has received is $1,659 in “in-kind legal services” from attorney Mark Bernsley, covering his time spent preparing Shelley’s complaint.

Nevertheless, since February, Shelley has been included in every debate held for candidates running in the 30th District, and she spends her days reaching out to voters, mostly at meetings with different groups around the district. She spends much more time talking about her fiscal conservatism than about her social libertarianism.

“In this race, which has two Democratic incumbents who think the same way about almost everything, someone should be in the race to make the conservative argument for the economic policies that will bring back growth,” Shelley said.

The centerpiece of her economic argument is a flat tax — and at 5 percent, her flat tax is significantly lower than ones proposed by many Republicans over the years, including Texas Gov. Rick Perry (who proposed a 20 percent flat tax) and Herman Cain (whose “9-9-9 plan” included a 9 percent flat income tax).

Like many flat-tax proponents, Shelley says her proposal may not necessarily result in less revenue coming into the federal government, thanks to a broader tax base. But she acknowledged she doesn’t actually know what the budgetary impacts of her proposal might be, and Shelley’s 26-page e-book outlining the flat tax, “Uncle Sam’s Nickel,” includes very few numbers.

“It’s not a budget document, obviously,” Shelley said. “It’s an idea: What would you, personally, do if you knew tomorrow you could keep 95 percent of the money you made doing it?”

Shelley was not specific about where she would cut government spending, instead she proposed remaking the federal government piece by piece, from the “essential workers” upward.

Because, to prepare for the possibility of a government shutdown, all federal government departments are required to keep lists of which workers are essential, Shelley said she would like to ask each department to submit that list to Congress and then make the case to lawmakers for any funding over and above those “essentials.”

“Then the elected representatives of the people of the United States can decide if we still need that,” Shelley said.

Paul winds down campaign but keeps delegates

U.S. Rep. Ron Paul has effectively given up his presidential campaign but will not yet give up his delegates to Mitt Romney.

Paul, a Texas Republican, said this week that he would no longer compete in his party’s primaries, leaving Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, the only viable candidate for the GOP nod still running.

Romney remains about 200 delegates shy of securing the nomination, but his erstwhile rivals, including Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich, have either formally endorsed him or pledged to do so.

The Washington Times reported Tuesday that Paul would retain his delegates in order to leverage influence.

“Our delegates can still make a major impact at the national convention and beyond,” Jesse Benton, a top strategist for Paul, said in a memo obtained by the Times.

Paul’s presence and influence in the race helped veer the other candidates to embrace some of his libertarian ideas, particularly on reducing or eliminating the role of government in the financial system.

His isolationist views, especially on cutting assistance to Israel, have not gained as much traction.

Berman snags newspaper endorsements, Sherman files complaint against Berman campaign

With California’s congressional primary election scheduled to take place on June 5, Rep. Howard Berman (D-Van Nuys), has won endorsements from the editorial boards of the Los Angeles Times and Los Angeles Daily News.

As a result of redistricting, Berman, who has represented parts of the San Fernando Valley in Congress since 1983, is running for re-election against another incumbent Jewish Democratic Congressman, Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Sherman Oaks), who has been representing an adjacent Valley district since 1997.

While the editorial boards of both papers acknowledged the service of both men to their constituents, each paper ultimately endorsed the more senior Berman, in part because his seniority brings with it increased clout in congress.

Berman has staked his candidacy on the argument that his legislative record demonstrates that he is the more effective lawmaker. Whether the message resonates with voters in the newly redrawn 30th District remains to be seen, but the pitch appears to have held sway with the newspapers’ editorial boards.

The Daily News endorsement, published on May 7, said that Berman “holds more power in Congress than Sherman,” even as it misidentified Berman as the chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs (he is the committee’s ranking Democrat) and neglected to mention that Sherman has reportedly declared his intent to succeed Berman in that post, should he win in November. 

In its endorsement of Berman on April 30, the Times noted the congressman’s “long record of bipartisan achievement,” and his endorsements from “the overwhelming majority of the California Democratic congressional delegation, including both of the state’s U.S. senators, as well as by Gov. Jerry Brown.”

“[T]here is reason to believe that Howard Berman will be more effective in the years to come at serving the voters of his district,” the Times’ endorsement concluded.

Although California’s new open primary system now allows all voters to vote for the candidate of their choice, regardless of party affiliation, Berman was not the only candidate to be endorsed by the Daily News. In addition to backing Berman, the paper’s editorial board pushed Republicans to back another Jewish candidate, Susan Shelley. A first-time candidate, Shelley is, the Daily News editorial board wrote, “moderate enough to get support from voters of all affiliations.”

Sherman’s campaign, meanwhile, filed a formal complaint with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) on May 7, alleging that the Berman campaign illegally coordinated with an outside group, a “Super PAC” formed to support Berman.

In a 22-page complaint, Scott Abrams, Sherman’s campaign manager, outlines what he calls “blatant coordination” between the Berman campaign and a Super PAC called The Committee to Elect an Effective Valley Congressman.

The Committee to Elect an Effective Valley Congressman raised $210,000 in the first three months of 2012, including $100,000 each from investor and media mogul Marc Nathanson and Peter Lowy, Co-Chief Executive Officer of the Westfield Group and the chairman of the board of TRIBE Media Corp., which publishes the Jewish Journal. Tech entrepreneur David Bohnett donated $10,000.

The Sherman campaign’s complaint centers on the actions of a consultant, Jerry Seedborg, who has worked with Berman’s brother, political consultant Michael Berman, on many campaigns in the past. Seedborg was paid $132,300 by Berman for Congress in the first three months of this year, a sum that was reportedly paid to sever his contract when a new manager was hired in March. During the same period, the pro-Berman Super PAC reported a $23,595 debt to Voter Guide Slate Cards, a company founded and headed by Seedborg.

In Jewish election season, old themes and new concerns about Iran

Simmering beneath the presidential season’s familiar refrains of support for Israel is a passionate partisan argument over how best to confront Iran and deal with the new Middle East.

The Jewish election debate season was launched informally on May 4 at the annual American Jewish Committee global forum when longtime U.S. Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) and Weekly Standard editor William Kristol made the case for their preferred presidential candidates.

Kristol vs. Frank was lively, friendly and covered familiar territory about the Jewish tendency to vote Democrat and the commitment of both parties to Israel.

An encounter the next day between two top former Iran officials in the Obama and George W. Bush administrations, speaking at a Washington Institute for Near East Policy retreat, highlighted deep fault lines over Iran and the Middle East, not just between the campaigns but also between liberals and conservatives and the Obama administration and the Netanyahu government.

At issue were whether sanctions and diplomacy would keep Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, what circumstances would merit a military strike and whether the Arab Spring promised stability or chaos for the region.

The AJC debate between Frank, who this year is ending his 32-year run in the House of Representatives, and Kristol, the scion of a leading neoconservative family, was replete with the familiar, almost affectionate banter that characterizes much debate between Jewish Republicans and Democrats.

Kristol joked about how unlikely it was he would sway the audience, which he presumed to be predominantly made up of supporters of President Obama.

“It’s always a pathetic scene,” Kristol said of his appearances before Jewish audiences, noting that he has acted as a surrogate for GOP presidential candidates since 1996.

Frank needled Kristol for affiliating with a party that he said has moved sharply to the right on social issues.

“Whether or not the fact that you are gay disables you from being a foreign policy adviser,” Frank, himself gay, said, citing the case of Richard Grenell, an openly gay foreign policy spokesman for Mitt Romney’s campaign who recently quit under pressure from social conservatives.

Both surrogates scooped out heimishe references sure to resonate with the audience: Kristol in imagining Joseph Lieberman as secretary of state, and Frank in noting his pride in his relation by marriage to the late Three Stooges member Shemp Howard.

That revelation came after Frank likened the GOP to the Three Stooges.

“I mean that with no disrespect to the Three Stooges,” he said, evoking laughter not just from the audience but from Kristol, too.

Frank and Kristol addressed substantive issues, particularly differences over how best to keep entitlement programs solvent, through cuts and privatization programs (Kristol) or cuts and increasing taxes (Frank).

On Israel and the Middle East, however, they seemed more in agreement. Like Kristol, Frank faulted Obama for a “badly worded” speech a year ago calling for negotiations on the basis of the 1967 lines with security guarantees for Israel, but said the president had recovered.

Kristol agreed and said that on Iran, Obama and Romney “don’t sound that different from each other.” He claimed some credit for pressuring Obama toward being pro-Israel through his advocacy group, the Emergency Committee for Israel, which has run ads fiercely attacking the president’s record on Israel.

Kristol insisted that Romney would be the better choice to back Israel and face down Iran, but added that were Obama re-elected, “Some of us on the outside will continue to pressure [the administration] to do the right thing.”

The themes raised in the Frank-Kristol debate can be expected to resurface in debates in states where Republicans and Democrats agree that Jewish votes may make the difference in November, notably Florida, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Nevada.

The tone at the Washington Institute retreat, held at a leafy golf resort deep in Virginia’s Washington suburbs, also was friendly but less prone to banter.

Neither of the panelists—Colin Kahl, a former deputy assistant secretary of defense in the Obama administration who handled the Iran nuclear file from 2009 to 2011, and Jamie Fly, who dealt with the same issue in various capacities for the George W. Bush administration—was billed as speaking for the campaigns or for the parties, although Fly stepped in at the last minute for Dan Senor, an adviser to the Romney campaign.

Launching straight into substance, Kahl and Fly offered arguments that drew short of definitive conclusions but showed sharp divergence on whether an attack on Iran could prevent the acquisition of a nuclear bomb.

Kahl outlined four arguments against a nuclear Iran: It could use the bomb, or allow a proxy to use it; a bomb would embolden Iran’s already aggressive regional posture; the profound suspicion between Israel and Iran, even if neither nation intended a strike, could result in misunderstandings that could escalate into war; and a nuclear Iran could set off an arms race.

He said each had merit to varying degrees and cumulatively made the case for threatening military action. But Kahl also said that Israel was off base in pressing for military action sooner rather than later.

His reasons: Sanctions and diplomacy had yet to be exhausted; there is no evidence that Iran was definitively committed to making a bomb; it is not clear that an attack would sufficiently degrade Iran’s capability to make a bomb; and there is no united international coalition committed to military action.

“One of the reasons I’ve been so critical about the Israelis taking action is that at this moment they cannot satisfy any of those criteria,” Kahl said.

Fly said that overall he agreed with Kahl’s assessment, but differed about what it portended. Instead of seeing the lack of hard evidence of a nuclear weapons program as reason to hold back, Fly used it to argue pressing forward with plans for a military strike.

Gaps in military intelligence mean that “we don’t know what other facilities they may have,” he said, and that “sets us up for failure.”

Fly laid out a scenario in which intelligence failure combined with prolonging the military option could result in a nuclear Iran that would have to be contained—an outcome that Romney and Obama have both rejected.

“I fear this path is leading us toward essentially accidental containment,” he said.

Fly said the Obama administration had not been consistent in making clear to Iran that a military strike was an option.

“I don’t think the Iranians think this administration is serious about taking eventual military action,” he said. “Clearly the Israelis are concerned.”

If commentary by Amos Yadlin, a former Israeli military intelligence chief who was attending, was indicative, the Israelis were indeed concerned.

“I am very much afraid that all those who explain that it is too early to attack—and this is what we have been doing for the last six years—will very soon say it is too late,” said Yadlin, whose term ended 18 months ago and who was a frequent interlocutor with Kahl when both were working for their respective governments.

Similar differences at the Washington Institute conference also played out over the meaning of the Arab Spring.

“While the change in the Middle East is working against Iran, it is our belief that it can and will work for the United States,” Denis McDonough, the U.S. deputy national security adviser, said in a keynote address. “A more democratic region will ultimately be more stable for us and our friends.”

The Obama administration has engaged with the Muslim Brotherhood, among other actors in Egypt following the outster of longtime President Hosni Mubarak more than a year ago. McDonough said such parties were unlikely to impose dictatorships.

“Any government today is going to press towards greater transparency,” he said. “As a result of more powers to individuals, more powers to Egyptians, even if someone wants to be dictatorial, it’s going to be difficult.”

Such sanguinity about the results of Arab upheaval was otherwise in short supply throughout the conference, which tends to a draw a more hawksih-leaning pro-Israel crowd.

In concluding remarks, Washington Institute director Robert Satloff noted that “The record of empowerment of Islamic political parties is not positive.”

Jewish reaction mixed to Hollande victory in France

Jewish reaction was mixed to the election of the Socialist Party’s Francois Hollande as the president of France.

The European Jewish Congress congratulated Hollande, who was elected Sunday over Nicolas Sarkozy with 51.7 percent of the vote to 48.3 percent for the incumbent.

“Our recent meeting with Mr. Hollande was very constructive and touched on many areas of concern to the Jewish community,” EJC President Moshe Kantor said in a statement. “I believe we have a sympathetic ear in the new French leadership and we look forward to continuing this relationship with the new president.”

Richard Prasquier, president of the CRIF umbrella group of French Jewry, told reporters Monday in New York that he was concerned that Hollande’s election would lead to a rise in the anti-Israel left.

“We know that some of the parties who are supposed to be partners of the coalition in favor of Francois Hollande are not friends of Israel. The part they will play we will see,” he said, according to the Jewish Press.

More than 92 percent of French nationals who voted in Sunday’s election at the French Embassy in Tel Aviv cast their ballot for Sarkozy, the center-left candidate, according to reports.

Israeli President Shimon Peres congratulated Hollande on his victory.

“On behalf of the Israeli nation, it is a pleasure for me to send my sincere congratulations on your election to the post of President of France. I am confident that under your leadership, the French people will look to the future with hope, security and a spirit of unity.”

Hollande became the first Socialist president of France in nearly two decades. Sarkozy, of the Union for a Popular Movement party, was considered the favored choice among French Jews.

Sarkozy conceded shortly after the polls closed, wishing his successor luck in handling difficult times in France and in Europe.

Adelson donates $5 million to Republican Super PAC

Casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, a major giver to the Newt Gingrich presidential bid, has donated $5 million to a Super PAC supporting Republican candidates.

Adelson and his wife, Miriam, made the donation in February to the Congressional Leadership Fund, a super PAC connected to House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and other Republican leaders that supports establishment Republican candidates, Politico reported, citing a newly filed campaign finance report.

Adelson also reportedly is hosting a fundraiser on Friday at one of his Las Vegas hotels for a Boehner umbrella group that works closely with the Republican National Committee and the National Republican Congressional Committee, according to Politico.

Watch Sheldon Adelson dish on all the candidates here.

The donation is a positive sign for Mitt Romney, Politico reports, because his campaign is hoping to attract wealthy donors of the GOP presidential hopefuls he appears to have beaten as Romney prepares to take on President Obama in the general election in November.

The Adelsons donated more than $16 million to Winning Our Future, an independent committee, or Super PAC, that is run by former Gingrich associates in support of the candidate. Gingrich has not dropped out of the race but Romney appears to be well on his way to the Republican nomination.

Adelson is worth more than $21 billion, according to Forbes magazine. He is a major giver to Birthright Israel, which provides free 10-day trips to Israel for Jews aged 18 to 26.

Hopeful Dems eye top committee spots

Amid the election season tumult, behind-the-scenes campaigns are also under way for who will be the next top Democrats on two key congressional committees — with Jewish lawmakers in the running for both leadership slots.

Two veteran congresswomen, Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio) and Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.), who is Jewish, are vying for the leadership of Democrats on the Appropriations Committee, perhaps the most powerful of the U.S. House of Representatives committees because it determines spending.

And Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.), who is facing the Foreign Affairs committee’s top Democrat, Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif.), in a redistricting-fueled battle, has declared that he wants his fellow Jewish Democrat’s committee leadership post if he prevails. But if Sherman prevails in his House race, Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), a Berman ally, says he would vie to become the committee’s top Democrat.

Irrespective of which party ends up controlling the House after the 2012 elections, the two committee leadership fights are significant.

If the Democrats win back control of the House, they would be able to appoint the committee chairs, who have broad discretion in determining what legislation makes it out of the committee and onto the House floor, and what issues deserve oversight. The minority party’s leaders, while not as powerful as the chairs, may convene hearings and often work with chairs in shaping and advancing legislation.

At this stage the campaigning — among other members of the caucus, the congressional leadership and donors, and, to a degree, in the media — has been more about who plays well with whom than it has been about issues. But bubbling below the surface of the contests are two issues that are central agenda items for Jewish groups: abortion rights and Israel.

Kaptur is in line to be the appropriations committee’s most senior Democrat now that Rep. Norm Dicks (D-Wash.) has announced that he is not running for re-election. Lowey is ranked fourth in seniority on the committee among Democrats. Rep. Pete Visclosky (D-Ind.), who is one slot above Lowey and one below Kaptur, is not considering a bid. Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.), who is ranked seventh, also is considering a bid but is considered a long shot.

Lowey, 74, who was active in Jewish women’s groups before she launched her congressional career in 1989, is making her support for abortion rights an issue in her outreach, her staffer said. Republicans, the Lowey staffer said, tend to flood appropriations bills with amendments that would inhibit abortion as an option in the United States and overseas.

“It’s important to have someone who is willing to stand up for women’s health and who can be relied on,” the staffer said.

Kaptur, a Roman Catholic who represents a relatively conservative northern Ohio district, has been rated a “mixed choice” by NARAL Pro-Choice America, the abortion rights advocacy group, while Lowey scored a “fully pro-choice” rating.

Lowey’s reputation as a premier pro-Israel lawmaker also may figure in the calculus of who gets the spot, although she is not making it an issue in her campaign. She has been a leader in securing assistance for Israel and has an unusually strong partnership with the foreign operations subcommittee chairwoman, Rep. Kay Granger (R-Texas), based in part on their commitment to the Israel-U.S. relationship.

Kaptur is closer to J Street, the liberal Israel advocacy group. In January 2009, in the midst of Israel’s Operation Cast Lead in Gaza, she said that “the proportionality of Israel’s response to Hamas’ incessant terrorist rocket launches is lamentable.”

Kaptur’s communications director, Steve Fought, said that Kaptur was committed to assistance for Israel, as she was to overall foreign aid. In any case, her bid for the committee’s top Democratic spot was based more on economic issues.

“It’s still about the economy, stupid,” he said, noting that Kaptur opposed NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement, saying that it brought job losses — and that she has been able to cobble together allies from both parties in pushing back against such agreements.

Just as Lowey’s emphasis on abortion implies an unstated dig at Kaptur, so does the NAFTA reference seem to undercut Lowey, one of a minority of Democrats who voted for the trade agreement in 1993.

Lowey may have the edge with the leadership; she allowed herself in 2007 to be dissuaded from standing for the committee leadership to make way for since-retired Rep. David Obey (D-Wis.), which earned her good will. Additionally, Kaptur has clashed with Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), the House minority leader, over the health care package that in 2010 was the then-speaker’s signature achievement.

Meanwhile in California, the Sherman-Berman race is already infused with pro-Israel politicking, and Sherman’s declared candidacy for the top Democratic spot on the foreign affairs committee only intensifies that element of the race. Berman, 71, and Sherman, 57, are both Jewish.

Sherman, in a statement, suggested that his tough postures on sanctioning Iran and supporting Israel were salient to his leadership bid.

“I have the breadth of experience to do the job and have worked tirelessly to help our caucus achieve a majority,” he said. “My record on Israel and on Iran sanctions is well known to all who read JTA reports.”

Berman would not comment for this article. However, the outline of their increasingly bitter race in the San Fernando Valley race already has seeped into this battle. Sherman’s backers have sought to depict Berman as bound too closely to the Obama administration and averse to aggressively confronting the president on Israel’s behalf. Berman’s defenders have countered that he is more reliable in securing the support and action that Israel needs — most recently the broad Iran sanctions packages — and advances Israel’s interests better as an influential insider.

Sherman, who has been far ahead of Berman in some polls, may not have helped his case by announcing for the committee leadership so early, before the outcome of his House race.

Much of the congressional leadership is rooting for Berman, albeit unofficially, according to a source close to party leaders. Pelosi has been publicly praising Berman, even as she has not made an endorsement in the race. Berman also has been endorsed by the overwhelming majority of California’s congressional Democrats.

Engel, who is also an outspoken supporter of Israel, has announced his intention to bid for the top spot if Berman loses to Sherman, although he said in an interview that he hopes that does not happen.

“I feel a little awkward, but I’m letting people know I would go for the job. I can’t allow someone who has nothing to lose to talk to people,” he said of Sherman, “and not talk to people.”

Opinion: You don’t mean a thing if you ain’t got that swing

If you’re reading this, your vote for president won’t count.

Don’t get me wrong.  Everyone should vote; I think it should be compulsory, as it is in Australia, with fines for no-shows.  Too much patriots’ blood has been spilled to protect our right to vote for America to be soft on civic deadbeats.  Voting is the minimum price of admission to democracy.

But because the same Constitution that gave us the gift of elections also gave us the boobie prize of the Electoral College, all that presidential candidates really care about is winning enough states to total 270 electoral votes.

Based on history and polling, Democrats can probably count on winning 14 states in November, for 182 electoral votes.  (Those are ” target=”_hplink”>50 million presidential ballots were cast in the 15 swing states in 2008.  By October, it’s a good guess that the voting populations in those states will be closely divided, with Romney and Obama each getting about 45 percent.  It’s the 5 million lucky duckies who say they don’t know who they’ll vote for in November who’ll be getting the most campaign love.

Campaigns don’t lump those 5 million swing voters together; they target subsets.  The Obama campaign, for example, has ” target=”_hplink”>all over the map – they can be liberal on some things, and conservative on others.  They also don’t pay much attention to elections until close to Election Day.  Watching Fox or “The Daily Show,” bookmarking political blogs, following political news: unlike you, that’s not their idea of a good time. 

To campaigns, the good news about swing voters is the same as the bad news about them.  The country may be sharply polarized, but swing voters don’t identify with one side or the other.  On the one hand, a person who could just as easily vote for Romney as for Obama isn’t especially aware of, or moved by, the differences between them.  On the other hand, unlike partisans, they’re persuadable.  So campaigns are already spending a lot of money on polls and focus groups trying to figure out what words will swing their needle to one side or the other. Those are the messages that their media buys will hammer home this fall when this 10 percent starts tuning in.

The reason that Romney isn’t worried that abandoning his right-wing positions will indelibly brand him as the Etch-a-Sketch candidate is that swing voters haven’t been paying much notice to those positions.  In their case, what happens in the primaries stays in the primaries.  Given their disproportionate power, it’s a little dispiriting to think that Romney will be getting away with so much hypocrisy because of their inattentiveness.  But if you believe that an engaged, well-informed electorate is essential to democracy, it’s kind of alarming to think that swing voters may be as much a tabula rasa as Romney is a blank slate to them. 

Marty Kaplan is the ” target=”_hplink”>USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.  Reach him at

Santorum’s Southern sweep mars Romney’s front-runner status

Rick Santorum swept two Southern states in Republican primaries, complicating Mitt Romney’s status as front-runner and all but burying Newt Gingrich’s chance for the nomination.

Santorum, the former Pennsylvania senator who emerged from last place in polling as recently as December to become the conservative challenger to Romney, scored 33 percent of the vote in Mississippi and nearly 35 percent in Alabama. Gingrich, the former U.S. House of Representatives speaker, finished second in both states, with 31 percent in MIssissippi and 29 percent in Alabama. Romney was third with 30 percent in Mississippi and 29 percent in Alabama.

Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) came in a distant fourth in both races after barely campaigning in either state.

Romney, who during the campaign has tried to shuck his reputation as a moderate, had campaigned hard in a bid to prove he could win in conservative Southern states. The former Massachusetts governor is leading substantially in delegates, but his path to the nomination has been far from smooth as conservative candidates continue to mount substantive challenges.

Gingrich had suggested that if he failed to win in Mississippi and Alabama, his campaign was in trouble, predicated as it was on winning Southern states.

If Gingrich leaves the race, campaign watchers will look to see who his main backer, casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, decides to support. Adelson and his wife, Miriam, twice salvaged Gingrich’s campaign with huge cash infusions; Gingrich and Adelson have been friends since the 1990s, in part because they share hard-line pro-Israel positions.

Romney has the backing of much of the Jewish Republican establishment, having attracted the bulk of Jewish donors and advisers. His appeal to Jews is based partly on his moderation and ability during his governance of Massachusetts from 2003 to 2007 to appeal to liberals and independents.

Additionally he and his wife, Ann, have referred in talks to Jewish groups to their Mormon faith, likening themselves to Jewish Republicans who have pushed for prominence in a party that still draws much of its support from a Protestant base.

Both Santorum and Romney have battered President Obama for what they depict as his hostility to Israel and his fecklessness on dealing with Iran, and both say that they will repeal much of the heath care reform package passed by Obama.

Some of Santorum’s domestic policies, including statements suggesting that a “Jesus guy” is most suitable for the presidency, have alarmed some Jewish groups.

Mitt Romney narrowly wins Ohio in Super Tuesday split

Super Tuesday Republican primaries were a race between Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum, Republicans selected a Jewish veteran for Ohio’s senate run, and Dennis Kucinich lost his bid for reelection.

Ten states went to the polls Tuesday in what is the biggest election day of primary season.

“Super Tuesday” usually helps determine a frontrunner, but Santorum, the former Pennsylvania senator, won decisively in important southern states Oklahoma and Tennessee, and also picked up North Dakota.

Romney won his home state of Massachusetts and its neighbor, Vermont and as well as Idaho and Virginia.  Polls revealed Tuesday night that Romney narrowly defeated Santorum in Ohio.

The former Massachusetts governor faced only Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) on the Virgina ballot; Santorum and Newt Gingrich failed to place on the ballot.

Head to head with Romney in the state, Paul, a libertarian who rejects foreign assistance including for Israel, scored one of his most impressive outcomes this season: 40 percent to 60 Romney’s percent.

Gingrich, the former speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, won Georgia, the state he represented in Congress, keeping him in the race for now, although Santorum’s decisive wins in southern states Tennessee and Oklahoma seemed to dampen Gingrich’s prospect of a rally. It was too early to call Wyoming and Alaska, the ninth and tenth states voting on Tuesday.

The next primaries are in Alabama and Mississippi on March 13. 

Gingrich, Santorum and Romney each took time out of campaigning on Tuesday to address the American Israel Public Affairs Committee policy conference on its last day, Santorum in person at the convention center in Washington D.C. and Romney and Gingrich via satellite.

All three took shots at President Obama for not making more clear a military threat against Iran should it not stand down from its suspected nuclear weapons program.

AIPAC did not invite Paul, who opposes increased confrontation with Iran.

In Ohio, Dennis Kucinich ended a colorful political career when redistricting in the state forced him into a primaries match with Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio.).

Kucinich, elected mayor of Cleveland in 1977 at the age of 31, emerged from obscurity 20 years later when the fiscal policies that had driven him from office in 1979 were vindicated.

Elected to Congress in 1996, he became one of its most liberal voices and one of its most consistent critics of Israel.

At the other end of the state, Rep. Jean Schmidt (R-Ohio) lost her Cincinnati area seat to Brad Wenstrup, a physician and Iraq War vet who had challenged her from the eight—a signal that the GOP is not moderating, considering Schmidt’s own reputation had been one of combative conservatism.

Statewide, Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel easily beat off five challengers to secure the GOP’s nomination for U.S. senator.

Mandel, 34, the grandson of a Holocaust survivor, and a Marine who did two tours of duty in Iraq, now faces Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio).

Adelson reportedly gives ‘substantial’ new donation to Gingrich PAC

Casino and hotel magnate Sheldon Adelson reportedly has given a “substantial” new donation to a group supporting Newt Gingrich for the Republican presidential nomination.

Adelson gave the donation to Winning Our Future, an independent committee, or Super PAC, that is run by former Gingrich associates, Politico reported Tuesday, one week ahead of the Super Tuesday primary vote in 10 states. Adelson and his wife already have given $11 million to the PAC.

The new contribution, which came in a few days ago, is comparable to previous ones, Reuters reported, citing a source familiar with the donation.

CNN and CBS reported last week that Adelson would give $10 million more to the group.

Gingrich has been slipping in the GOP race for the presidential nomination.

Super PACs can raise unlimited sums from corporations, unions and other groups, as well as individuals, and indirectly support a political candidate. They cannot by law coordinate with the candidate’s official campaign.

Adelson, chairman and CEO of the Las Vegas Sands Corp., is worth more than $21 billion, according to Forbes magazine. He is a major giver to Birthright Israel, which provides free 10-day trips to Israel for Jews aged 18 to 26.

Gingrich, Romney blame Palestinians for lack of peace

Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich put the blame for the impasse in Middle East peace talks squarely on the Palestinians.

The candidates were responding a a question at the latest GOP debate Thursday night, in Jacksonville, Fla., from an audience member, Abraham Hassan.

“How would a Republican administration help bring peace to Palestine and Israel when most candidates barely recognize the existence of Palestine or its people?” he asked. “As a Palestinian-American Republican, I’m here to tell you we do exist.”

Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, cited what he depicted as examples of Palestinian incitement by both Hamas in the Gaza Strip and the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank.

“The Israelis would be happy to have a two-state solution,” Romney said. “It’s the Palestinians who don’t want a two-state solution, they want to eliminate the state of Israel. And I believe America must say the best way to have peace in the Middle East is not for us to vacillate and appease, but it is to say we stand with our friend Israel.”

Gingrich, the former speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, defended earlier comments in which he described the Palestinians as an “invented people,” and added: “My goal for the Palestinian people would be to live in peace, to live in prosperity, to have the dignity of a state, to have freedom, and they can achieve it any morning they are prepared to say Israel has a right to exist.”

He repeated a pledge to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem on his first day as president.

CNN, the debate broadcaster, did not give the other candidates, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum and Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), an opportunity to respond.

President Obama: 2012 State of the Union [FULL VIDEO]

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