Column: Road to the Jewish White House

Jared Polis, Joshua Shapiro and Lee Zeldin ended the day, on Tuesday, Nov. 8, able to claim vast political accomplishments. All three can be credited with consolidating or augmenting power in their states for their respective political parties.

Polis won re-election as governor of Colorado, Shapiro was elected to his first term as governor of Pennsylvania and Zeldin came unexpectedly close to election as governor of New York. In the process, their coattails probably secured the elections of struggling down-ballot candidates who would have lost without Zeldin, a Republican, and Democrats Polis and Shapiro at the top of the ballot.

It is certain that party leaders will remember their exceptional achievements in the future, especially for presidential contests. It could mean the election of the first Jewish president or vice president.

No need to debate if America is ready for a Jewish president or vice president. Voters already elected a Jewish vice president. In 2000, then-Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman of Connecticut won the popular vote for vice president. He was stopped from ascending to VP because of the antiquated electoral college.

Of all four candidates for president and vice president in 2000, the other three were dull. Lieberman was a live wire who revitalized Al Gore’s presidential campaign. At the time, voters loved him. Not a contrary word I can recall about his religion. One of his predecessors, the late Sen. Abraham Ribicoff, also of Connecticut, was fearful of stoking antisemitism when he was considered for high-level positions.

Voter affection for Lieberman morphed into hostility when he voted against progressive policies.

We cannot be certain if the coattails of this trio saved down-ballot candidates, but it stands to reason that they at least contributed. Shapiro defeated Republican Doug Mastriano with more than 55 percent of the vote while John Fetterman was elected senator with 50 percent. Fetterman found himself groping for victory over Dr. Mehmet Oz.

While New York Gov. Kathy Hochul was elected with 52 percent against Zeldin’s 47 percent, Sen. Chuck Schumer was re-elected by four points more than Hochul. As lieutenant governor, she replaced Gov. Andrew Cuomo when he resigned in disgrace more than a year ago. Zeldin’s coattails likely helped flip four suburban House seats around New York City.

Even Polis’s coattails might be credited with the Democratic sweep in Colorado.

Shapiro, who is serving his second term as state attorney general, is most likely to become the first Jewish president. He reportedly has longstanding ambitions for running for president, and a future presidential campaign has been mentioned soon after he was elected governor. While he has yet to start his new job, CNN’s Dana Bash asked him if he has ambitions to become America’s first Jewish president.

“I have an ambition to get a little bit of sleep,” Shapiro responded.

The governor-elect of my state, who lives 10 or 15 miles from me in Abington Township, was not only elected governor of our sixth most populous state but also contributed to decisive gains for his party.

If his coattails saved the day, then Shapiro drove the only flip of a Senate seat in the country, rescuing a floundering Fetterman whose candidacy was threatened in the closing weeks of the campaign. Two Democratic House members whose careers were imperiled – Susan Wild of Allentown and Matt Cartwright of Scranton – survived. Wild in particular eked out a 50-point win. Democrats will outnumber Republicans in Pennsylvania’s congressional delegation with a 9-8 majority when eight years ago Republicans held a 13-5 majority followed by a 10-8 Republican edge and then a 9-9 tie in the 2018 election; Pennsylvania lost a congressional seat this year because of the census.

In the state capital of Harrisburg, Democrats may control the state House of Representatives for the first time in two decades. At this writing, Democrats are two seats away from taking a 102-seat majority.

If Shapiro ever runs for president, it probably will not happen until 2028 since most governors wait until their second term to seek higher office. Naturally, Shapiro’s political fate depends on his performance as governor and circumstances of future presidential contests.

U.S. Rep. Zeldin ran such an aggressive race against Hochul that, if his coattails made the difference, he can be credited for flipping four House seats. All four House seats on Long Island will be occupied by Republicans, who now hold two seats. Republicans also flipped two seats in the Hudson Valley.

Those four new seats sealed a Republican takeover of the House with 218 seats on Wednesday with a half-dozen more House seats to be determined.. NBC projected 219 seats vs. 216 for Democrats. Republicans will probably have Zeldin to thank for that.

I can see the Republican nominee for president in 2024 picking Zeldin as a running-mate. He has never held statewide office, but Zeldin resides in the second most populous liberal state in the nation, after California.

Colorado’s governor, Jared Polis, won re-election to a second term with 57 percent of the vote followed by Sen. Michael Bennet’s re-election at 55 percent. Democrats took five of the state’s eight House seats, including a new House seat added to the congressional delegation because of population growth.

The race between GOP Rep. Lauren Boebert and Democrat Adam Frisch, who is Jewish, has been narrowed to 1,000 votes in Boebert’s favor, at last check. Even with Boebert’s notoriety, Frisch’s success has surprised observers because the district leans Republican.

At the very least, these conditions place Polis at an advantage if he seeks higher office.

There are plenty of non-Jewish political leaders who did well on election day, and we now live in an environment in which white Christian males have plenty of competition. It is too soon for anyone to measure the drapes at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, but the governors of Pennsylvania and Colorado and the almost-governor of New York will be able to compete on a level playing field when the time comes.

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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