Florida’s Palm Beach County has long been considered a bastion of liberalism, but the now-infamous $50,000-a-plate Romney fundraiser hosted by Jewish private equity titan Marc Leder—in which the former governor said that 47 percent of Americans “believe that they are victims” — has shed light on the strong support many prominent Republicans are receiving from Jews in this traditional Democratic stronghold.
The county, which is heavily Jewish, is split 70-30 in favor of Democrats, but campaign records nevertheless indicate significant Jewish support for Republican politicians.
“Boca Raton is a fairly liberal area electorally, but it’s also very wealthy and there is substantial Republican wealth there,” says Kevin Wagner, a professor of political science at Florida Atlantic University. “It’s not a great electoral area for Republicans, but it is a great fundraising area. Major Republican candidates come for fundraising, but not for big campaign events. Democrats come here for both.”
To win Florida, Wagner says, Democrats need to do well with the Jews in Dade, Broward and Palm Beach, the three counties of South Florida. “If you reduce the 70 percent Jewish support for Obama in Florida to 60 percent, that’s enough to swing the vote for Romney in the state,” he says. “It’s not enough [for the Democrats] to just win this area. They need to win strongly and without the Jewish vote, that’s not possible.”
And Republicans are trying to do just that: Along the main South Florida corridor I-95, brightly colored billboards shout, “Obama… Oy Vey.” The campaign was launched by the Republican Jewish Coalition in a bid to sway Jewish voters to abandon the president that many supported four years ago.
Leder, the controversial Romney supporter, was not a big name in local political circles until the video surfaced this week. Still, his pockets are deep: In 2011, he donated to more than a dozen politicians. In addition to a $125,000 gift to Restore Our Future, the pro-Romney PAC, he and his now ex-wife donated $2,500 each directly to Romney, as well as several thousand dollars to Jewish Republican politicians ranging from Hawaiian governor Linda Lingle to House Majority Leader Eric Cantor. He’s also supported other Florida Republicans including Adam Hasner, a Congressional hopeful and Cliff Stearns, who is up for reelection in the state’s 6th district.
But Leder has extended his largesse to Democrats too, including Florida Congressman Ted Deutsch and Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar.