Bernie Sanders may be the first Jew to have won a presidential primary, but his Jewishness is not going to help him in Tuesday’s Florida contest, according to pollsters and other experts. This, despite the fact that the Florida primary is the first one in this race where Jewish voters could determine the results.
Nonetheless, a poll by The Wall Street Journal and NBC published on Sunday showed Clinton leading Sanders 61% to 34% in Florida. A CNN/ORC survey a few days earlier showed precisely the same result and a Quinnipiac poll released on Monday showed Hillary with a 60% to 34% lead.
According to a recent study, 12 percent of Jewish Americans reside in Florida. About 3% of Floridians — about 650,000 — are Jewish, and they are concentrated in Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties. But since Jews tend to vote in higher number than other groups, the percent of primary voters who are Jewish is likely to be between five and seven percent, wrote the Miami Herald.
“It is a primary. That means the importance of a smaller group is magnified,” University of Florida political science professor Kenneth Wald, an expert on American Jewish culture, told the paper. “Both candidates have to think about Jewish vote.”
Clinton enjoys strong backing from Jewish community leaders and Jewish Democrats. In 2008, she won Florida’s Jewish voters 2-to-1 over Barack Obama.
According to the Jewish Insider, in the last few weeks, and over the weekend, “Clinton’s Jewish outreach team has organized phone banks, house parties, canvasses and voter registration drives.”
Congressman Steve Israel joined a conversation with FAU Jewish Student Union and Hillel members at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton on Sunday to support Clinton; Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) participated in a conference call with Jewish Women for Hillary, and Congressman Ted Deutch (D-FL) held a conference call with hundreds of rabbis and Jewish community leaders on Monday to buoy Clinton’s candidacy.
Sanders, meanwhile, has been “largely absent” in Miami, Palm Beach and Boca Raton.
“My expectation is that Hillary will win by a very large margin,” Congresswoman Lois Frankel (D-FL), who has been campaigning for Hillary, told Jewish Insider. “She’s very well known here in Florida. We have many New Yorkers that know her, who are here either in the winter or they’ve moved here and knew her as senator. She’s very admired.”
The Texas-based Star Telegram quoted Steve Rabinowitz, a Jewish Democratic political consultant who worked in the Clinton White House, as saying that "Bernie Sanders isn't getting any extra Jewish votes because of his own Judaism. Many, many Jews are very proud that Sanders has done so well – and it's not generating any extra votes."
"All the Jews over 40 are with Hillary Clinton. They just are. We just are," Rabinowitz said.
According to the Herald, Americans are now used to seeing Jews in prominent political positions, so it was “no shocker” to see Sanders win the New Hampshire primary.
“It would be cool to have a Jewish president but that’s not my primary concern,” Melanie Miller, an Orthodox Jew who grew up in Hollywood, told the paper. “I am more concerned to find someone who aligns with my political values.”
The fact that Sanders is Jewish is “not being emphasized among Democrats — it’s not even a topic of conversation,” she said.