Likud Party holds primaries

The Likud Party of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu went to the polls for party primaries to determine its candidates’ list for the upcoming national elections.

The list determines the order in which Likud lawmaker hopefuls will enter the 120-seat Knesset, following the March 17 election that will determine the number of seats the party will receive.

Polls for the Likud primary opened on Wednesday morning in 600 sites throughout the country.  Some 95,000 party members are eligible to vote to fill 38 available slots, though the party likely will only garner up to 25 seats according to current survey data. Some 70 candidates are vying for the spots. The polls close at 10 p.m. on Wednesday. Results are not expected until the end of the week.

Netanyahu is expected to be reelected as party leader.

The impact of the moderate Republican

On Oct. 28, 1980, a beleaguered President Jimmy Carter stood on a debate stage with his Republican challenger, former California Gov. Ronald Reagan.  Carter’s one chance to save his presidency depended on his ability to portray Reagan’s views as extreme. The best levers appeared to be Reagan’s criticisms of Social Security, but especially his vocal opposition in 1961 to a federal program to provide medical care to seniors — a plan that became law, as Medicare, in 1965.  

With his characteristic pinched and humorless mien and preachy schoolmarm look, Carter noted that Reagan had begun his career by opposing the future Medicare program. As Carter spoke, Reagan laughed, and when it was the Republican candidate’s turn to respond, he said, “There you go again,” and went on to say that rather than opposing the concept of Medicare itself, he had actually preferred an alternative piece of legislation that was before Congress.  (There is no evidence of such legislation at the time.) Carter’s charge drifted away, and with it, the election.

The process of reassurance continued, even into Reagan’s presidency. In fact, it was Reagan who, as president a year later, invented the term “social safety net,” to assure voters that his budget cuts to domestic programs would not eviscerate support for the “truly needy.”

As we observe the final days of the 2012 election campaign, I’m reminded of the difficulty Democrats have faced in their attempts to highlight the rightward turn the Republican Party has taken since Reagan’s rise. Even as Republicans have adopted positions that are increasingly unpopular with the American electorate, they have nevertheless managed to remain closely competitive in presidential elections. How have they done this? The question is particularly relevant as Mitt Romney, who committed to very conservative positions throughout the campaign, now seeks to move toward moderate positions that will resonate with voters in the final days before the general election.  

While Republicans have marginalized their moderates, Republicans nominate presidential candidates with moderate histories like John McCain and Mitt Romney, then demand that they toe the conservative line and bring on running mates like Sarah Palin and Paul Ryan to lock in the base. It was McCain who memorably said in 2008 that, if his own immigration plan came to his desk, as president he would certainly veto it.

Voters want to believe that the Republican candidate for president does not really share, or would not really act upon, the party’s extreme views in such areas as abortion, immigration, international relations, taxes and spending. The slightest moderate noises are magnified by voters’ own wish that it be so.  According to Robert Draper in The New York Times (July 5, 2012), Democratic pollsters have found that when they “informed a focus group that Romney supported the Ryan budget plan — and thus championed ‘ending Medicare as we know it’ — while also advocating tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, the respondents simply refused to believe any politician would do such a thing.”

It is, indeed, hard to distinguish between a real moderate (such as Arlen Specter, who died on Oct. 14, or former Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan) and moderate-sounding politicians. A long history of moderate Republicanism remains ingrained in our minds and clouds our view of the contemporary Republican Party. It was ingrained in my own mind growing up in New Jersey.  Clifford Case, a moderate Republican, was my U.S. senator. In New York, Nelson Rockefeller was the popular Republican governor, and Jacob Javits was a well-loved Republican senator.

This is why the Obama campaign made the shrewd decision not to focus only on Romney as a “flip-flopper,” someone whose positions on issues such as abortion or Medicare seem to be constantly in flux. A politician who changes positions may seem safe if the change is in the moderate direction that voters prefer. While we like consistency in our politicians, we also like them to agree with us and to reassure us that they could not possibly hold such extreme positions as giving tax breaks to the rich while privatizing Medicare.   Fortunately for the Democrats, Romney’s insensitivity to working Americans has provided a much more fruitful target than the hard-to-pin-down charge of extremism.  

This analysis suggests that Republicans can remain competitive at the presidential level, as long as they nominate candidates who can seem moderate when they need to, and who reassure voters that the real changes in the Republican Party will somehow not affect them. The picture, though, is quite a bit different at the state level.

In the states, to the joy of Democrats, Republicans are far less cautious and have nominated some candidates who are obviously out of the mainstream.   Democrats openly rooted for Republicans to nominate candidates like Delaware’s Christine O’Donnell in 2010; her bizarre campaign (including denials of witchcraft) helped keep the Republicans from winning a majority in the Senate. Todd Akin’s comments on “legitimate rape,” have turned a sure Republican victory in Missouri against the vulnerable Claire McCaskill into a likely Democratic win. And Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown is being dragged toward defeat by his association with his national party, and therefore with candidates like Akin.

Democratic candidates have a stake in encouraging Republican radicalism at the state level. In 2002, Gray Davis helped Richard Riordan lose the Republican nomination by highlighting to Republican primary voters Riordan’s moderation on abortion. Davis then went on to win against the more conservative and much weaker Bill Simon. When Davis faced the moderate Arnold Schwarzenegger the next year in a recall election, he had no chance. So, while conservatives go after Republican moderates for ideological reasons, Democrats want those same moderates to lose Republican primaries for tactical reasons.

At this point, Democrats would rather face right-wing Republicans than Republican moderates. But, as unlikely as it seems today, it would certainly be better for the states and for the nation if real moderates somehow recovered their standing in the Republican Party. A moderate Republican party would force Democrats to compete to offer the best solutions, with both parties offering to solve problems, respect science and weigh real-world evidence. 

Wishing, though, will not make it so, nor will a willingness to accept reassurance instead of real moderation. 

Raphael J. Sonenshein is executive director of the Edmund G. “Pat” Brown Institute of Public Affairs at California State University, Los Angeles.

Gingrich wins Republican primary in Georgia, TV networks project

Newt Gingrich won the Republican presidential primary in his home state of Georgia, TV networks projected on Tuesday, giving the former congressman his second victory of the primary season.

Gingrich, who spent much of the last week campaigning on his home turf, last won a victory in January in South Carolina. Georgia has the biggest number of delegates of the states holding nominating contests on Super Tuesday and Gingrich had said he had to win the state to keep his campaign viable.

Reporting by Deborah Charles; Editing by Vicki Allen

Romney wins in Michigan, Arizona

Mitt Romney won Republican primary contests in Arizona and Michigan, maintaining his front-runner status.

In Michigan, the state his father governed and where he was raised, Romney beat back a challenge Tuesday by Rick Santorum, the former Pennsylvania senator, 41 percent to 38 percent, with nearly all of the vote counted.

But Santorum’s strong challenge forecasts a long and difficult fight for Romney to win the nomination for president. The former Massachusetts governor had to outspend Santorum in a state that just weeks ago he had been expected to win handily.

Romney won handily in Arizona, defeating Santorum by 47 percent to 27 percent.

Michigan, with its battered automaker-based economy and its status as a large Midwestern hub, was considered a critical test.

The candidates now will focus on Super Tuesday, when 10 states vote on March 6.

Santorum has surged to become the likeliest conservative contender to beat Romney by playing up his blue-collar roots and emphasizing social conservatism on issues such as birth control, abortion and gay rights.

Newt Gingrich, the former U.S. House of representatives speaker, scored 6.5 percent in Michigan and 16 percent in Arizona, and Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) scored 12 percent in Michigan and 8 percent in Arizona.

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.

Republicans—and Democrats—pitch to Florida’s Jews

Barack Obama won’t show up on the vote tallies after polls close in Florida’s Republican primary on Jan. 31, but the president’s supporters already are waging a fight for the Sunshine State.

Democrats are rolling out a campaign to rival any of the GOP candidates, with a particular focus on the state’s substantial Jewish community.

Democratic officials said that volunteers in Florida already had made nearly 600,000 calls to supporters and conducted thousands of training sessions, many of them focusing on the Jewish community, 10 months before the general election. The Obama campaign has opened nine offices in the state.

“Florida is the most significant battleground state, and will be in 2012,” said U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), the chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, in a conference call Monday with the Jewish media. “We’re taking nothing for granted. We’re in the process of using these primaries as an organizing tool.”

Wasserman Schultz said Jewish surrogates were targeting communities across the state, defending Obama’s Israel record as well as emphasizing differences on health care and social issues, like abortion.

The rollout was planned months ago, well before Newt Gingrich’s stunning upset win Saturday in the South Carolina GOP primary buried the notion of Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, as the party’s impervious front-runner. The latest polls from Florida show Gingrich pulling ahead of Romney by 7 to 9 percentage points; just a week earlier Romney had enjoyed double-digit leads in the state’s polls.

Florida is a testing ground because it is the first large and diverse state, said Nancy Ratzan, a former president of the National Council of Jewish Women who is now active in the Democratic Party.

“Florida is more reflective of what they’re going to find in other parts of the country,” she said.

Romney and Gingrich head into Florida with few holds barred, each striving to identify the other as a member of the “elites” reviled by the Republican base.

A Romney ad released Monday accused Gingrich of making money off the financial crisis by taking money from a government-backed mortgage company. It said that the former speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives and Georgia congressman was a Washington “insider.”

Gingrich has depicted Romney as uncaring, drawing on his career as a venture capitalist.

Noam Neusner, a former domestic policy adviser to President George W. Bush, said that Gingrich had upended the race with his South Carolina victory and the race was now wide open.

Neusner, who has not endorsed a candidate, noted that Romney had won the “Jewish donors” primary, drawing the largest assemblage of Jewish supporters. But he noted that Gingrich was a known quantity among Jewish conservatives going back to his days as House speaker from 1995 to 1998.

Gingrich’s positions are “very similar to Romney’s and certainly very acceptable to Republican voters,” he said.

Tevi Troy, a deputy health secretary under President George W. Bush who now advises the Romney campaign, suggested—very delicately—that Gingrich’s mercurial personality would be an issue as the campaign rolls forward.

“You have to choose wisely about who the right candidate is,” Troy said. “Here you have a guy with strong leadership experience and in business, and has a good chance of beating President Obama and running a strong, competent foreign policy.”

Neusner acknowledged that “there’s a greater comfort level with a certain constancy of personality in Romney.”

“Gingrich is admired” for his intellect, Neusner said, “but there’s greater enthusiasm that Romney could do better in the general” election.

Both presidential hopefuls, as well as fellow candidate Rick Santorum, the former Pennsylvania senator, have made Obama’s relationship with Israel a key target of their foreign policy campaigning.

“We’re very comfortable saying that so long as Barack Obama or Ron Paul are not the president, Israel will be a much safer place,” said Sid Dinerstein, chairman of the West Palm Beach Republican Party who has not endorsed a candidate.

Dinerstein said he expects the eventual Republican candidate to draw Jewish independents and centrist Democrats because of Obama’s Israel record.

“President Obama has no chance of getting 78 percent of the vote,” he said, a reference to the level of Jewish support Obama garnered in the 2008 elections, according to exit polling.

The Republican National Committee has identified Florida as a swing state with a substantial Jewish population where Jewish votes could make the difference, according to an activist who saw an RNC memo late last year. Other such states listed in the memo were Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Nevada, according to the activist.

The importance of Florida’s Jewish vote is one area where there is bipartisan agreement. Obama proxies in Florida include Wasserman Schultz and Robert Wexler, a former Florida congressman who now heads the Center for Middle East Peace in Washington.

Democrats are emphasizing domestic issues in their approach to Jewish voters, as well as Obama’s Israel record. Wasserman Schultz said on the call that Republican plans to privatize parts of Medicare threatened a key safety net for the elderly.

Romney is planning Jewish events, a campaign official said. The campaign official also said that John Bolton, the former ambassador to the United Nations who is a favorite of many hawkish Jewish conservatives, will campaign in the state for Romney.

Queries to Gingrich’s campaign went unanswered. Reports say he is going into Florida without funds or organization comparable to those at Romney’s disposal.

Sheldon Adelson, the pro-Israel casino magnate who has long been close to the former House speaker, helped boost his prospects in South Carolina with a $5 million infusion to an independent pro-Gingrich group, Winning America’s Future. And on Monday it was reported that thebillionaire’s wife, Miriam, was donating another $5 million to the group.

Republicans emphasize the diplomatic disagreements that Obama has had with Israel over its settlement policies, and say the president has not done enough to isolate Iran. Democrats stress the close security relationship with Israel cultivated by Obama and say Iran is more isolated than it’s ever been because of his policies.

Ratzan, who now speaks regularly to Jewish groups on behalf of Democrats, said she is encountering the effects of a Republican attacks on Obama’s Israel record.

“I’m definitely getting questions,” she said, but the Obama campaign and the administration “are doing a good job of getting the message out.”

A case in point, she said, was the 7-minute video that the Obama campaign released last week that culled from news footage a slew of testimonials to the president’s commitment to Israel from a slate of Israeli leaders, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Alan Solow, a key Obama fundraiser and the immediate past president of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, said it is critical to get out Obama’s pro-Israel message now.

“We think it’s important that we don’t allow the Republicans to establish the narrative regarding what the president has done for Israel,” he said, adding that the timing was fortuitous.

“We thought that this was a good time, generally, to do the video,” Solow said, noting that the election season had been launched in earnest. “It’s a happy coincidence for us that we’re doing it at a time when there was attention for Florida.”

Gingrich blows open GOP race with S.C. romp

Newt Gingrich won the Republican primary in South Carolina by a wide margin, throwing open the race for the party’s presidential candidacy.

Gingrich, the former U.S. House of Representatives speaker, defeated Mitt Romney, long believed to be the front-runner, 40.4 percent to 27.9 percent, according to counts after polls closed Saturday.

Over the last week, Gingrich’s poll numbers climbed in the conservative state, seen as the last chance to keep Romney, the former Massachusetts governor and a relative moderate, from winning the nomination.

Gingrich, who had performed poorly in Iowa and New Hampshire, was given an 11th-hour boost when longtime backer Sheldon Adelson gave $5 million to an unaffiliated pro-Gingrich political action committee.

The committee, Winning America’s Future, blasted the state with ads associating Romney’s past as a venture capitalist with job loss. South Carolina suffers from high unemployment.

Gingrich, a one-time Georgia congressman, also performed well in the CNN debate in the state on Thursday night, scoring ovations with his attacks on the media for its focus on his two earlier failed marriages.

Adelson, a major backer of Jewish and pro-Israel causes, had told associates that he was ready to donate another $5 million to Gingrich’s cause if he performed well in South Carolina.

The next primary state is Florida on Jan. 31, where pro-Israel messaging is likely to factor in a state with a substantial Jewish community.

Rick Santorum, the former Pennsylvania senator who scored a virtual tie with Romney in Iowa and who also casts himself as the conservative to beat Romney, scored 17 percent in South Carolina.

Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), who is running a campaign emphasizing small government, cutting foreign aid including to Israel and reducing the U.S. military profile overseas, scored 13 percent.

Perry set to drop out of presidential race

Rick Perry reportedly is dropping his bid to become the Republican presidential nominee.

CNN and The New York Times reported Thursday that the Texas governor will announce later in the day his decision to bow out; a news conference reportedly is scheduled in South Carolina.

Perry, a staunch backer of Israel who has longstanding ties with leading Republican Jews, surged in the polls when he announced his bid for the GOP nod last August, but he dipped following a number of poor debate performances.

After lagging in the Iowa and New Hampshire tests, he had hoped to rally in South Carolina, which goes to the polls on Saturday. The polls, however, show Perry trailing in the conservative state.

Perry’s exit would narrow the race to four candidates—front-runner Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul. Reuters reported that two Perry campaign sources said he is likely to endorse Gingrich, the former speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Gingrich, an ex-congressman from Georgia, and Santorum, a former U.S. senator from Pennsylvania, are expected to battle for Perry’s evangelical and social conservative backers.

Romney, the former Massachusetts governor who tied with Santorum in Iowa and won in New Hampshire, is currently leading in South Carolina polling.

Where Will Backers of Lieberman Go?

The withdrawal of Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.) has left many Jewish fundraisers and donors without a candidate and has sparked a new round of fundraising calls and solicitations.

Much of the discussion focuses on Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), who has emerged as the front-runner after the first round of caucuses and primaries. Like Lieberman, Kerry is a political veteran who has cultivated deep ties with the Jewish community both in and out of his home state.

However, there is talk that some pro-Israel backers will look to Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.), a relative newcomer to the political scene, believing that he would take a more pro-Israel stance. There also is some speculation that Lieberman backers, supportive of some of the lawmaker’s more conservative positions, may consider supporting President Bush.

There is no empirical data on the amount of Jewish money in Democratic politics, because the Federal Elections Committee does not ask for a contributor’s religion. By all accounts, however, Jewish donors have played a significant role in bankrolling Democratic operations.

Many of those who backed Lieberman are expected to assess their next moves soon.

"I don’t think all of the Jewish money will go to one of the candidates; it will go to the best candidate based on the individual contributor’s thinking," said Marvin Lender, a member of Lieberman’s campaign board, who raised funds in the Jewish community. "I think that Jews are not single-issue voters and continuously will look for the best candidate."

Many of the major political players in Democratic politics, including prominent Jews, gave large donations to Lieberman and other candidates. Others have given small donations to numerous hopefuls and may now choose one candidate to whom they will give the maximum donation.

Under new campaign finance laws, donors can give up to $2,000 to a single candidate and up to $37,500 total for candidates for president, the Senate and the House of Representatives.

Lonnie Kaplan, a Lieberman fundraiser in New Jersey and past president of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), suggested that many of Lieberman’s backers would pause before backing another candidate.

"People will look at two things: Where do they stand in terms of issues of Israel’s security, and is there still a race?" he said.

Some believe Kerry has the race sewn up. That might lead some Jewish donors, who are pragmatic and want to be part of a winning team, to give to him, but others may feel their donations are therefore less necessary.

Alan Solomont, a fundraiser for Kerry in the Jewish community, said there would not be a specific push for Jewish money right now, but that the campaign would continue to make inroads in the community.

Some supporters of Israel say Kerry has a solid voting record on Mideast issues, but there are lingering concerns that as president, he might pressure Israel to make concessions to the Palestinians, as former President Bill Clinton did.

That’s likely to throw some support toward Edwards, who placed well in Iowa and may get a bounce from his victory Tuesday in South Carolina. Lender said that Gen. Wesley Clark — who has Jewish roots — may find that it helps him raise Jewish money, though his campaign is struggling.

Little of the Lieberman support is expected to go to former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean. Dean had poor showings in both Iowa and New Hampshire and has been hurt in the Jewish community by e-mails highlighting misstatements advocating a more "even-handed" U.S. policy between Israel and the Palestinians. In addition, Lieberman campaigned as the anti-Dean candidate, and it’s unlikely that many of his supporters would make such a dramatic shift of allegiance.

However, Steve Grossman, the national co-chairman of the Dean campaign and a former AIPAC president and Democratic National Committee chairman, said he believes damage control efforts following the e-mail campaign could result in new Jewish donations, if Dean regains momentum in the next two weeks.

"There will be a considerable number of fundraisers who are Jewish, particularly those who have been close to Al Gore, who very much like and respect what Howard Dean has done to energize the Democratic Party," Grossman said. "Those people will take a hard look at Howard Dean but will want to see the Dean campaign regain momentum from a political standpoint between now and the Wisconsin primary on Feb. 17."

Kaplan, the Lieberman fundraiser, said he believed some backers would give a second look to Bush, rather than support a different Democratic challenger.

"After the Democrats have nominated a candidate, people in the Jewish community will look at the two candidates," Kaplan said. "Many Democrats who are Joe Lieberman supporters will compare the nominee to President Bush."

But Solomont said he believed that most of Lieberman’s backers would stay in the Democratic Party.

"Jewish Democrats, although they have a relationship with Joe Lieberman, have a more strongly held desire to defeat George W. Bush," he said.

Life After New Hampshire

Now that the race for the Democratic nomination for president is moving south and west, Jewish scrutiny of the candidates is likely to intensify.

Sen. John Kerry (D.-Mass.), who won New Hampshire with a healthy margin, was propelled forward with his second win in two weeks. He has enjoyed solid Jewish support until now — he won most Jewish votes in Iowa last week — and that support is likely to increase. So, too, is scrutiny of his policy positions.

History’s first viable Jewish candidate for president, Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.), is heading for a test he has said will make him or break him. Lieberman, who came in at fifth in New Hampshire, says he needs to win at least one of the seven primary and caucus states by Feb. 3 in order to stay in the game.

Lieberman captured 9 percent of the vote in the election season’s first official primary. Kerry won Tuesday’s primary with 38 percent of the vote. Howard Dean, the former Vermont governor who was once the New Hampshire front-runner, came in second with 26 percent.

Lieberman had been locked in a tight battle for third place with Gen. Wesley Clark and Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.), who each received 12 percent of the vote. An exit poll suggested that among New Hampshire Jews, Kerry, Clark and Lieberman finished in a dead heat. Dean trailed, and Edwards hardly made a showing. Kerry has the distinction of enormous popularity among American Jews and Americans generally. He peppers his speeches with emotive anecdotes tailored to every group he addresses.

That talent won him overwhelming support among Iowa’s Jews, who had been thrilled to hear him shout "Am Israel Chai!" at a synagogue event in November. Now his policies will come under closer examination.

He is a solid Israel supporter and supports the isolation of Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat, but those close to him say he has little patience for Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. He has emphasized the need to bring Saudi Arabia to account for peddling anti-Semitism.

Steve Rabinowitz, a Washington adviser to Democrats and to the Jewish community, said Kerry is likelier now to attract Jewish money.

"It tends to go to the front-runner anyway, and Kerry is playing well in the community. He’s got a history in the community and people are comfortable with him," Rabinowitz said. He predicted Kerry would be the front-runner for Jewish givers, followed by Clark, who has the support of Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D.-Ill.), a top Jewish fundraiser for Bill Clinton in his successful 1992 presidential bid.

Kerry already has significant Jewish backing in his home state. Alan Solomont, a leading philanthropist in the community, is Kerry’s top fundraiser in Massachusetts.

"He regards the relationship with Israel as special and in U.S. interests because it is the only democracy in the region," said Solomont, who also is active in the Israel Policy Forum. "At the same time, he believes the United States has a very important role to play in trying to assist Israel in ending the conflict. The current administration is a lot of talk and not a lot of action."

Kerry and Dean both have suggested former President Jimmy Carter — not especially beloved among U.S. Jews — as a Middle East envoy. Dean suffered much greater flak, however, because he was the front-runner and had made a number of perceived gaffes about the Arab-Israeli issue.

Lieberman’s fifth-place finish Tuesday placed his candidacy on its last leg, though the campaign pledged to fight at least another week, heading south and west. He is banking on the diversity of the states there to allow new voters, especially conservative Democrats, to have a say. The range of those states — and the shift away from New England, home turf for Kerry and Dean — means Lieberman can exploit his name recognition from the 2000 vice presidential nomination to get a leg up.

Lieberman told supporters Tuesday that campaign organizers in the seven states with primaries and caucuses next week wanted him to "carry this fight to our states." He said, "The battle goes on with the confidence that I am ready to be the president America needs now."

Among the states going to the polls next week are Arizona, which has 81,500 Jews, and Missouri, which has 62,500 Jews, according to the American Jewish Year Book.

That may not be significant for Lieberman’s candidacy, as Jews have shown that they do not necessarily vote for Jews if they find other candidates equally or more favorable. Lieberman campaign officials feel they have the chance to win at least one state outright Feb. 3 — when South Carolina, New Mexico, North Dakota, Missouri and Delaware also vote. Lieberman currently is leading in the polls in Delaware.

His acknowledgment that he needs to win a state next week is echoed by Democratic National Committee National Chairman Terry McAuliffe, who repeatedly has said that any candidate who has not won a state by that time should drop out.

Lieberman pitched a positive spin on the New Hampshire finish Tuesday, claiming he was in a three-way tie for third place. He had campaigned heavily in New Hampshire, choosing to skip the Iowa caucus and even renting an apartment in New Hampshire’s largest city, where he watched the returns Tuesday.

In the days before the primary, Lieberman claimed he would do better than expected, in part because of the state’s high number of independents, who can vote in the party primary. After his fifth-place showing, campaign officials turned to next week’s contests as the key determinant of Lieberman’s viability.

"What’s happening now and what’s been happening is totally consistent with what we expected," a campaign official said.

For several months, the seven presidential candidates have focused their attention in large part on the Granite State, giving Jews there ample opportunities to gauge the contenders and choose their favorite.

Not that courting the state’s 10,000 Jews was a priority.

None of the candidates made an appearance at the annual "Deli Night" Saturday night at Temple Adath Yeshurun in Manchester. The organizers had moved the event a month earlier because of the political season, and even invited President Bush to attend. Bush’s father came 12 years ago when he was the incumbent president running for reelection.

The synagogue also had to cancel its traditional breakfast with the candidates on Sunday, two days before Tuesday’s primary, because only Gen. Wesley Clark had confirmed an appearance. It was the first time that the event had been canceled in anyone’s recollection, local Jews said.

Jews here had other opportunities to see the candidates up close, and like their fellow citizens in New Hampshire, many waited to the last minute before backing a candidate. Many also said they chose the candidate they believed could best defeat President Bush in November. Some Jewish voters said they abandoned a favored contender for one who was more viable to win in November.

Issues also have shifted, as more Jewish voters said rebuilding the economy and providing health care became more important than the war in Iraq. Kerry’s surprise victory in last week’s Iowa caucuses seemed to help him garner more support in the Jewish community in New Hampshire.

Jews who backed Lieberman insisted their shared religion was not a factor.

"It has nothing to do with the fact that he’s Jewish," said Moshe Shpindler, a restaurateur in Manchester who was born in Israel. "He’s really straightforward and honest.”

On the Saturday before the primary in Manchester, Shpindler prayed with Lieberman at the home of Manchester’s Lubavitch rabbi.

Several Jews who supported other candidates said they had considered Lieberman but didn’t think he could win the Democratic nomination or defeat Bush in November.

Adam Solendar, executive director of the Jewish Federation for Greater Manchester, said Tuesday that he had spoken to several Jews who went into the voting booth planning to pick either Dean or Kerry, but then cast their ballot for Lieberman. Solendar said they all decided in the end that they should not exclude Lieberman because he was Jewish, and they determined his views were the closest to theirs.

Ron Kampeas, the JTA bureau chief in Washington, contributed to this report.

Mitzna Wins Labor

If Haifa Mayor Amram Mitzna hopes to becomes Israel’s next prime minister, he faces a daunting challenge: resuscitating a moribund Labor Party in a little more than two months.

A day after the dovish newcomer to national politics won a sweeping victory in Labor’s leadership primary, political observers warned Mitzna that he had only passed the easy part.

The Israeli daily Ha’aretz noted that Mitzna has an extraordinarily short time to consolidate his position in Labor, neutralize potentially hostile camps within the party, win the loyalty of senior party members, organize a national election campaign and inject new life into a dispirited party.

Even then, his chances of winning the Jan. 28 national elections are considered slim: Polls show the Likud Party with a daunting lead over Labor.

Essentially, one commentator noted in Wednesday’s Jerusalem Post, Labor members chose Mitzna to be the next opposition leader, not the next prime minister. If Labor loses in January, Mitzna might be asked to step down as party chairman. If he refuses to do so, he might face another challenge for the party chairmanship next summer.

The final results of Tuesday’s primaries bore out the predictions of exit polls: Mitzna received 54 percent of the vote, incumbent chairman Benjamin Ben-Eliezer won about 39 percent and legislator Haim Ramon won slightly more than 7 percent.

The soft-spoken Mitzna immediately extended an olive branch to his two Labor rivals in a bid to unite forces in preparation for the national campaign. He said his first task would be to unite the party "as one big beehive, a joint staff, in order to lead the Labor Party in the most important of all confrontations, with the Likud," the Ha’aretz newspaper reported.

Critical to this undertaking will be reconciliation with Ben-Eliezer, whose withdrawal from Sharon’s unity government — Ben-Eliezer had been defense minister –precipitated Sharon’s decision to call elections. A longtime party veteran, Ben-Eliezer still has a formidable political machine within Labor. Mitzna offered Ben-Eliezer the No. 2 position on Labor’s Knesset list for the elections, but Ben-Eliezer said he needed time to consider the offer.

Mitzna, 57, is a former general who clashed with then-Defense Minister Ariel Sharon during the 1982 Lebanon War and commanded Israeli troops in the West Bank during the first intifada in the late 1980s. His tenure as Haifa mayor generally is considered successful — the city is seen as a model for Arab-Jewish coexistence — but opponents accuse him of being too close to business interests and allowing for virtually unchecked real estate development.

Continuing an Israeli tradition of placing their faith in white knights with little political experience — Ehud Barak and Amnon Lipkin-Shahak were two other ex-generals seen briefly as political saviors, but whose stars quickly burned out — Mitzna burst onto the national stage just several months ago and instantly became the leading candidate for Labor’s chairmanship.

Described as aloof, somewhat stiff and yet open to counsel, Mitzna galvanized a left wing thrown into disarray when the peace process collapsed in the terrorist waves of the intifada.

The national unity government of Sharon and Ben-Eliezer, who served as defense minister, refused to negotiate with Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat or even contemplate a diplomatic process while violence continued. Mitzna, however, said he would be willing to negotiate under fire, and would talk with any Palestinian leader, including Arafat. If negotiations fail to produce an agreement, he said, Israel would withdraw unilaterally from most of the West Bank within a year. Mitzna also pledged to uproot Israeli settlements in the Gaza Strip immediately upon taking office.

On the economy, Mitzna advocates less spending on settlement and more on retirees, students and poor development towns.

Such positions provide voters with a stark contrast to the Likud. Mitzna’s stance toward the Palestinians — and his insistence that disengaging from the Palestinians will allow Israel to focus on its own domestic problems — is likely to appeal to left-wing voters who complained that their voices weren’t heard during the 19 months of national unity government.

Whether such positions will win over the mass of Israelis in the center — whose votes have proved crucial in the last three elections — is far less clear. Most public opinion polls show Israeli public opinion moving to the right since the intifada began.

The national election will come into greater focus after the Nov. 28 primary in the Likud, when Sharon faces off against Foreign Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Writing in Ha’aretz, political commentator Yoel Marcus wrote that Mitzna will stand a better chance if the Likud is led by Netanyahu, who espouses a harder line than Sharon.