In Florida

January 1, 2012
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Michael M. Adler

In the 2012 presidential election, Florida will be given two additional electoral votes. The Jewish community here has been and continues to be a very important part of the state’s electorate. Jews will be a major factor in determining Florida’s 29 electoral college votes — votes that may determine the outcome of the presidential election.

The Republican Party sees the Jewish community — a recognizable, defined, and accessible group — as a fertile target for group voter conversion. In the 2008 election, Republicans unsuccessfully tried to dislodge Jewish voters from their historical Democratic allegiance. Although some of the Republican claims about Obama’s pastor and church gained traction, ultimately, Florida Jewish voters made their decisions based on their perceptions of issues and facts rather than on baseless claims.

What will motivate Jewish voters in the 2012 election? The volatile political, economic, and social environment could define the times as uncertain. And desire for change on economic, security, and social issues could become a catalyst for political change as well. Such unpredictability has inspired political strategists to believe that they have an even greater opportunity to sway voters than in the last presidential cycle.

Jews in Florida do not vote as one homogeneous group. They represent diverse political perspectives and resonate with a range of issues, which may suggest that their votes are up for grabs during the next election cycle. For example, most Orthodox Jews here are more conservative when it comes to Israel; they would also vote for school vouchers and would strongly support anyone who runs against President Obama. On the other hand, Jewish women voters overwhelmingly support women’s choice, which makes it extremely difficult to lure women to the Republican Party.

The large elderly population in Florida cares deeply about the economy and health care. A fair analysis of the administration’s policies on health care will be important. Scrutiny will also be given to each candidate’s policies on issues that affect the elderly. While the elderly can be vulnerable to campaign propaganda, efforts to present the president’s and the challenger’s records accurately will, I hope, give voters essential and accessible information upon which to make their electoral decisions.

Younger Jewish voters, who appear to be less concerned about Israel, are still potentially vulnerable to the Republican primary campaign assertions that Obama is weak on security and foreign policy. But the administration’s support for NATO involvement in Libya, as well as the withdrawal of troops from Iraq, both resonate with young voters.

As 2012 gets underway, the Floridian Jewish community will make informed voting decisions that impact the election.

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Michael M. Adler is chairman and chief executive officer of the Adler Group, Inc., one of South Florida’s largest and most successful real estate companies. He is also chairman of the Mount Sinai Medical Center, vice chairman of the board of Florida International University, and a past president of the Greater Miami Jewish Federation.

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