Column: Did Jewish Vote Swing Election?

Column: Did Jewish Vote Swing Election?

The Jewish stars aligned, politically speaking, on November 3, 2020 and January 5, 2021. A case can be made that the Jewish vote swung six statewide races to elect Joe Biden as president, hand Democrats control of the Senate and elevate Chuck Schumer as the first Jewish majority leader of the Senate. 

Strangely enough, the margins in these elections corresponded with the likely size of the Jewish vote in three states –  Biden’s race against President Trump in Arizona, Georgia and Pennsylvania and three Senate elections in Arizona and Georgia. 

Conversely, a shift in Florida’s Jewish vote contributed to Trump’s three-point hold on the Sunshine State. 

Trump appeared to make a slight dent in the Jewish vote nationwide, as Democrats usually carry 75 percent of the Jewish vote because of our concerns about health coverage, gun control and other domestic issues. The departing president was estimated to win 41 percent of Florida’s Jewish voters, though he lost his home county of Palm Beach County. 

The Jewish vote cannot be blamed for sharp losses in House seats. Most congressional districts with sizeable Jewish communities are still represented by Democrats. Democrats are now left with control of the presidency, the Senate and the House of Representatives, which is where Republicans started out four years ago. 

It occurred to me some months ago that the Jewish vote can make the difference in a close election – a razor-thin close election, if at all. That appears to have happened in those six races – Biden’s wins in the three battleground states, Mark Kelly’s election to the Senate from Arizona on Nov. 3 and the victories of Jon Ossoff and the Rev. Raphael Warnock in Georgia’s Jan. 5 Senate runoff elections. 

Biden took Pennsylvania by an 88,000-vote margin in a state where anywhere from 200,000 to 300,000 Jews reside. Biden’s heaviest support was found in Montgomery and Delaware counties, home to large Jewish communities. 

He took Arizona by 11,000 votes and Georgia by 12,000 votes, while Kelly ousted Martha McSally by 79,000 votes. Ossoff and Warnock won by a margin in the range of 33,000 to 68,000 votes. The estimated Jewish population of Arizona and Georgia is each 120,000. 

Trump took Pennsylvania by 44,000 votes in 2016, the first time that a Republican won my state since 1988. Republican presidential candidates have relied on Arizona since 1952, with the exception of President Clinton in 1996, and Georgia since 1984, with the exception of Clinton in 1992. 

Kelly, Ossoff and Warnock are among four Democrats who displaced Senate Republicans. John Hickenlooper retired Sen. Cory Gardner in Colorado with a 300,000-vote margin while Democratic Sen. Doug Jones was defeated in Alabama; the Jewish community in Colorado comprises one-third of Hickenlooper’s victory margin. 

The net addition of three Democrats was sufficient to create a 50-50 tie between Democrats and Republicans. Tie votes can be broken by Vice President-elect Kamala Harris. For the record, Democrats will occupy 48 seats, and they will be allied with two independent senators, Angus King of Maine and Bernie Sanders of Vermont. 

The outcome of the Senate elections is especially historic for the Jewish community. Schumer will be the first Jewish majority leader of the Senate and the most powerful elected Jewish official in American history, making him one of the four most powerful people in Washington next Wednesday– along with Biden, Harris and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. If only Schumer can get over his camera-shyness. LOL. 

The Jewish community will likewise claim a strong presence in the social and/or family circles of Biden, Harris and Pelosi. Biden’s son-in-law is Jewish, son Beau’s widow is Jewish and son Hunter’s first wife is Jewish. Harris is married to a Jewish entertainment attorney and Pelosi has had close Jewish friendships since childhood. 

Plus, we will have considerable diversity among the quartet, amounting to a Jewish senator, two Catholics, two women, a woman with both black and Indian ancestry and three senior citizens 70 and above. At 56, Harris is the baby of the bunch.

About Bruce Ticker

Bruce S. Ticker, who writes from Philadelphia, also blogs for The San Diego Jewish World and Smirking Chimp and previously for the suspended Philadelphia Jewish Voice. He was previously a reporter and copy editor for daily newspapers in eastern Pennsylvania.

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