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There was good news earlier this week for Florida’s Democrats, looking toward a closely fought contest on November 3 for the state’s crucial 29 electoral votes.
A poll commissioned by the liberal, pro-Israel group J Street, conducted by the firm GBAO between October 12 and 15, found that 73 percent of Florida’s Jewish likely voters support former Vice President Joe Biden. With a margin of error of +/-4 percent, the survey polled 600 of the state’s estimated 500,000 eligible Jewish voters.
In recent years, statewide races in Florida have been decided by 1 to 2 percent of the eight to nine million votes cast. J Street’s findings indicate that support for the current Democratic ticket is approaching that of former President Barack Obama, who carried the state in 2008 and 2012. In 2016, Hillary Clinton won an estimated 67 percent of the state’s Jewish voters, in a contest that Trump won by just over 100,000 votes.
“The 73 percent to 22 percent seems to be an accurate number,” says Ira Sheskin, director of the University of Miami’s Jewish Demography Project. “Since almost all adult Jews vote, I suspect that the final Jewish vote will be close to the 73 percent.”
“I think the number is higher, I think we’re over 75 percent in Florida,” said Democratic State Representative Joseph Geller, who is involved in mobilizing the state’s Jewish Democrats. “I believe the Florida number is 77 or 78 percent.”
But the Republican Jewish Coalition disputed the J Street poll results, saying its internal polls showed a much narrower gap, without providing details.
Hours before the poll’s release, the Cook Political Report‘s Dave Wasserman told the Jewish Insider that the Jewish vote is “going to be pivotal in Florida.” The heightened pace of the campaign for such a narrow segment of the potential electorate reflects that reality. In mailers, virtual events, on op-ed pages, and paid TV and digital ads, the battle for Florida’s Jewish voters is accelerating.
Both parties have poured buckets of money onto the airwaves and the internet. In mid-October, Michael Bloomberg announced a $250,000 gift to the Jewish Democratic Council of America to reach Florida voters.
Earlier this week, Jewish residents of Central Florida found a four-page brochure in their mailboxes entitled “The Fateful Choice for American Jews in the Upcoming Election.” It was a column by former Anti-Defamation League (ADL) executive director Abe Foxman, endorsing Biden for President.
Through Jewish Floridians for Joe, the Biden campaign has hosted virtual events featuring Burt Bacharach (at 92!), actor Jeff Goldblum, and former U.S. Ambassador to Israel Daniel Shapiro.
On op-ed pages, there have been dueling essays from Republican State Representative Randy Fine for Trump to Hollywood mogul Haim Saban for Biden.
In an October 6 op-ed for the newsletter Florida Politics, Fine, who is Jewish, laid out his party’s case for Jewish voters: “Today, Joe Biden’s Democratic Party tolerates–and worse, embraces–advocates of anti-Semitism and anti-Israel policies,” wrote Fine, who prefers to talk about the Democrats rather than his recent, severe bout with COVID-19 that landed him in the hospital. “The case is clear. We can’t count on Biden to stand up for Israel. We can’t count on Biden to stand up to anti-Semites. And we can’t count on Biden to stand up for American Jews.”
The next day, in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, Saban replied:
“Now more than ever, we need a president and vice president with the experience, track record, strategic vision, tenacity and respect of world leaders to protect our families and promote our well-being,” he wrote. “Those leaders are former Vice President Joe Biden and Senator Kamala Harris. A Biden-Harris administration will not just build America back better, it will build Israel’s safety and security back better as well.”