Does Obama have a “Jewish problem”?

Marc Ambinder argues that “there is no evidence that Barack Obama has a ‘Jewish’ problem.” Actually, he asserts this; what he argues is that Obama doesn’t have a “Jewish” problem by virtue of his association with Gen. Tony McPeak.
Even here, Ambinder’s reaasoning is questionable. He compares Obama’s association with McPeak to John McCain’s association with John Hagee, an anti-Catholic. But McPeak is Obama’s campaign co-chair and one of his go-to guys on national security issues. Hagee has no such status in the McCain campaign.
Ambinder is very likely correct, however, in contending that Gen. McPeak alone would not create a “Jewish” problem for Obama. But McPeak is just the tip of the iceberg. It consists not only of Jeremiah Wright, but also of a string of policy advisers and ex-advisers (Samantha Power, Robert Malley, Zgibniew Brzezinski, and now McPeak) who are known to view Israel negatively and in some cases are unhappy with with American Jews who support Israel. It’s this pattern of associations — a spiritual adviser, a former employee with strong ties and access to Obama (Power), and several advisers — that is problematic for Obama.
Ambinder concludes his piece by pointing to a Gallup poll that shows Obama running five points behind Hillary Clinton among Jewish Democratic voters based on tracking data since March 1. This poll tells us nothing about whether Obama would receive the kind of support a Democratic nominee should expect from Jewish voters in a general election. Nor does it tell us anything about a “McPeak effect,” since that news just broke. And it tells us little about the “Wright effect,” because that story broke during the polling period and because no earlier results are presented for comparison.
Another Gallup poll tells us that the portion of Hillary’s Democratic supporters who say they’ll vote for McCain is significantly larger than the portion of Obama’s Democratic supporters who say they’ll do this. Not long ago, the defection rates for the two candidates among Pennsylvania Democrats were found to be virtually dead even. Thus, it may very well be the case that Obama has a “Wright problem” which, more likely than not, encompasses some new resistance on the part of Jewish voters.


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