In Saturday night's Republican debate, Mitt Romney gave a defiant statement about Iran: he will stop it from getting nukes by any means, Obama won't. Yesterday Obama sought to parry Romney, saying that he is taking no option off the table.
Are we witnessing a primary between Romney and Obama right now, for the support of the Israel lobby?
I think so. Romney's braintrust includes neocons like Robert Kagan and Dan Senor, while David Brooks, David Frum and Bill Kristol have all said good things about Romney. Dennis Ross and Stuart Levey have both left the Obama administration, hurting his standing in the Israel lobby. Don't forget, the lobby defected from Bush to Clinton in '91 over settlements; and its fundraising abilities helped assure Clinton's election over the incumbent (as Max Blumenthal's post at AlAkhbar today points out).
Jews are sure to vote by a majority for Obama; but as a Forward package this week shows, Obama's polling numbers are sliding among Jews-- from 83 percent approval in early '09 to 54 percent in September. (Compared to overall #s going from 66 to 41.)
Neocons call on hawkish Jews, who tend to be older (p. 3 of that poll: overwhelmingly opposing a Palestinian state), and therefore wealthier. The fundraising question is crucial. Slate's editor David Plotz has questioned the loyalty of Jewish donors. So have the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times, talking about "Jewish donors--a major fundraising constituency for the president." The Hill said that Obama's big Wall Street fundraisers were turning to Romney, and I pointed out that most of the donors named by the Hill care about Israel.
New York Magazine's John Heilemann echoes the point:
[A]mong the high-dollar Jewish donors who were essential to fueling the great Obama money machine last time around, stories of dismay and disaffection are legion. “There’s no question,” says one of the president’s most prolific fund-raisers. “We have a big-time Jewish problem.”
So again I ask, isn't this what the dogfight over Iran policy is? Obama and Romney are squaring off in an Israel lobby primary, to try and gain Jewish financial support, anticipating the big race ahead. The neoconservatives and J Street are arguing over who can deliver that support. Politics never stays in the same place, but somehow I fear that hawkish voices will dominate my community once again.