Monday, January 9, 2012

*Election 2012* America Hayom - Adelson shakes up Republican race and Jewish Republican vote

Jewish Billionaire Sheldon Adelson has become the central of the Republican race.

According to Tablet Mag. Multi-billionaire casino magnate Sheldon Adelson's $5 million contribution to a pro-Newt Gingrich political action group, dedicated to taking down frontrunner Mitt Romney, Is a surprising maneuver that could complicate the Republican race and even the Republican Jewish establishment, which has largely stayed neutral or backed Romney.
"Adelson’s reasons remain unclear. His right-wing Israel HaYom newspaper has been a crucial backer of Prime Minister Netanyahu. He has donated to a penumbra of Jewish and Israeli causes—some right-wing and some not political. His various foundations have given more than $100 million to Taglit-Birthright. And, as the Forward first reported last month, he is a strong Gingrich backer, despite Romney’s general support among the GOP Jewish donor class (which mirrors the broader Republican establishment). While Adelson’s case for Gingrich, when he has made one, is predicated on Gingrich’s Israel stance—Adelson recently seconded Gingrich’s claim that the Palestinians are an “invented” people—nobody is really saying Romney is bad on Israel. Which makes Adelson’s willingness spend this much money—pocket change in actual capital, a whole lot in political capital—to sink Romney even after Romney has done much to secure the nomination all that more perplexing.

But whatever the reason, Adelson is now central to the Republican race. This insures that his own core issue—namely, securing U.S. support for Israel and backing of Netanyahu—will continue to factor in the primary fight and perhaps the general as well..."
Another Republican getting traction and gaining in on Iowa win, is Rick Santorum. With a pro Israel record on hand, Santorum is attracting attention especially among Jewish Republicans that are giving him a second look, yet his social conservatism could be a tough sell for Jews in the general election.

Santorum may have his work cut out for him in attracting Jewish support, Ron Kampeas reports:
"Pro-Israel insiders say the Santorum campaign is now aggressively reaching out to Jewish givers who helped him when he was a U.S. senator from Pennsylvania.

Santorum’s stumbling block, they say, is his hard-line take on social issues like abortion, gay rights and church-state separation -- not a huge deal when he was one senator among a hundred but a bigger factor for donors considering presidential contenders.

“The same groups are not going to support you for president as for senator,” a major pro-Israel donor, who contributed to Santorum’s Senate runs, said he told the candidate last summer.

Lonny Kaplan, a New Jersey businessman and a past president of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, has donated the maximum to Santorum’s campaign -- $2,500 -- and says he’s readying a pitch to fellow pro-Israel givers.

“He can appeal to a lot of independents, he's got the right economic message,” Kaplan said in an interview.

Santorum also calls for tripling the personal tax deduction per child; freezing spending on Medicaid, food stamps and other social welfare programs; turning Medicare into a voucher program for beneficiaries to buy their own private insurance; and adjusting Social Security eligibility and benefits.

Kaplan said that Santorum would now need to emphasize his economic and foreign policy messages if he wanted to win Jewish support.

“In terms of social issues, he has strong views, but he needs to also get out what he does for people,” Kaplan said.

During his two terms in the Senate, from 1995 to 2006, Santorum had a positive working relationship with Jewish communal groups in his state, earmarking federal funding for projects they supported, among them the naturally occurring retirement communities, or NORCs, pioneered by the Jewish federations system.

“His office was great in terms of helping to find money for projects,” said Robin Schatz, director of government affairs at the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia.

Santorum was attentive to the Jewish community -- and not just in election years. He convened town hall meetings in Jewish community centers on issues such as health care.

“He was very accessible,” Schatz said. “He had a great sense of humor.”

Santorum has stood out from the Republican field with his vigorous opposition to calls from his fellow candidates to slash foreign aid -- calls that have been criticized by some supporters of Israel.

During a November debate, Santorum assailed his rivals for “talking about zeroing out foreign aid and humanitarian aid in particular,” warning that such an approach would be self-defeating.

“America is that shining city on the hill. It is the city that comes to the aid of those in trouble in the world,” Santorum said. “We have done more good for America in Africa and in the Third World by the things that we have done, and we have saved money and saved military deployments by wisely spending that money -- not on our enemies but on folks who can and will be our friends.”

Perhaps Santorum’s deepest appeal to Jewish backers is his steadfast pro-Israel posture. As a freshman senator in 1996, he helped shape an earlier installment of Iran sanctions legislation. He also has taken a tough line toward the Palestinians, explaining while campaigning in Iowa that the West Bank “is legitimately Israeli country” and that “all the people that live in the West Bank are Israelis, they're not Palestinians."

More pronouncedly than any other candidate, he has been supportive of possibile military action against Iran, even delving into particulars.

“I would say to every foreign scientist that’s going into Iran to help them with their nuclear program, ‘You will be treated as an enemy combatant,’ ” he said recently on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” Working with Israel, he added, “We will degrade those facilities through airstrikes and make it very public that we are doing that.”

Yet while his Middle East views may play well with some Jewish voters and donors, it remains to be seen whether they will be enough to overcome the hesitance many have regarding his positions on social issues.

“Some of his very militant stands on issues that have to do with choice, with homosexuality -- it made some people in the community uncomfortable,” Schatz said.

The hard-edged way in which he expressed his views on such issues helped fell him in 2006, when he lost his Senate re-election bid by 18 points to Democrat Bob Casey, also an opponent of abortion rights.

One Jewish Romney supporter said that Santorum’s stances on social issues should rule him out for consideration not just as a presidential candidate but also a Republican running mate.

“Santorum on the ticket would kill us in Florida,” the Romney backer said."