2016 Election Blog #25: Moving to the Home Stretch! Where Debates, Money, and Votes…

September 26, 2016

There are a number of key factors related to the closing of an election campaign. This year there are no exceptions!

The Non Voter:  Of particular concern is the presence of a significant part of the electorate, who will either opt out of this election or choose to support a third party option, as a statement of their unhappiness with the nominees of the two primary political parties.  It is possible that 8-10% of all Jewish voters are considering “sitting this one out”.  This is represents a fundamentally new phenomenon within the Jewish community, as Jews historically have represented the highest levels of voter participation among America’s ethnic and religious communities.

Late Money Counts: Just as has been noted in this collection of articles, campaign finances represents the life-blood of a politician’s ability to be a winner.  Indeed, early support remains essential, but late financial giving is both symbolic and essential. Candidates are beholden to big money! The rush to the finish is based as much on getting out voters as it is in garnering the commitment of major donors.  A number of key supporters, including major Jewish funders, will be making their gifts at this critical juncture, in part to reaffirm the campaign’s endorsement of the donor’s special interests. 

Of particular interest, Jewish Republicans have been withholding their support for their party’s nominee, yet continue to invest in Congressional and other races essential to the GOP; fearful of a Trump victory, Jewish Democratic funders are pouring resources into the Clinton campaign.

Debates May Define the Outcome: As we enter the final six weeks of this campaign with an unclear outcome, how these candidates come across in the scheduled public debates may make the difference in this election.  Unlike earlier campaigns, the American public is expected to be particularly attentive to these political conversations.

Geography Matters: Campaigns will target over the last several weeks specific audiences and regions of the country that they believe essential to their political success in winning the nomination.  Once again,  “swing states” will become the battleground arenas for the 2016 campaign. Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Nevada, Colorado and a core of other smaller states will be seen as “in play” within the coming days.

As one moves closer to the November 8th election, polling data takes on a heightened level of importance, not just for two political parties but for the media as well.

Voter Turnout is Key: Both parties fully understand that they will need to turn out their “loyalists”, those folks most likely to embrace their party’s candidate.  If a third to 40% of Americans can be defined as “Democrats” and an equal segment of similar size as “Republicans”, then the real test over the last six weeks of this campaign will be for both campaigns to sell their political brand to this “third sector”, independents-new voters-undecided who account for somewhat over 20% of the voting public. The outcome of this election will be likely determined by the voting behavior of this segment of Americans.

Jewish voters sitting in key states will be targeted, as both campaigns will invest time to reach out to all likely voters in each of these contested states.  In this election, the Jewish vote is in play!

What Happens on the Street Counts: For voters who remain uncertain or who are at the moment “turned off” by both candidates, these final weeks where Presidential Debates and other political conversation will take place could have a profound impact in determining the 2016 winner.  But possibly more important to this cadre of potential voters is whether they will be moved or influenced by the events on our nation’s streets, i.e. terror threats, police-civilian engagement, economic issues affecting them.  What is likely to bring them to the voting booth on November 8th?  Will they view Donald Trump with disfavor or will they see in him an alternative option essential for the country’s future?  Or are they able to trust Hillary Clinton or do they view her past decision-making as so deeply flawed that they feel uncomfortable in supporting her?

Millennials Make a Difference:  Unlike their parents, Millennials are far more independent in their voting patterns.  Based on a new Jewish population report,  this cohort of younger voters is geographically concentrated, with 65% living in three states (New York, California, and Florida).  Only the Sunshine State is in play in this election, making Jewish Millennials a key target in November.  While 51% declare themselves as “Democrats” and 12% identify as “Republicans”, the 37% who are listed as “Independents” will be key to this election picture. Of special interest 30% of Jewish Millennials are non-white, representing an interesting shift in the demographic composition of the emerging Jewish community.

Dr. Steven Windmueller is the Rabbi Alfred Gottschalk Emeritus Professor of Jewish Communal Service at the Jack H. Skirball Campus of the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, Los Angeles. His writings can be found at

Did you enjoy this article?
You'll love our roundtable.

Editor's Picks

Latest Articles

Are We Going to Stop for Lunch?

So far, the American Jewish community has been exceptional in its support for Israel. But there is a long road ahead, and the question remains: will we continue with this support?

More news and opinions than at a
Shabbat dinner, right in your inbox.

More news and opinions than at a Shabbat dinner, right in your inbox.

More news and opinions than at a Shabbat dinner, right in your inbox.