By Erica Morris, Jewish News
With only five days until Americans head to the polling booth to pick the next US President, Jews in the UK have revealed who they’d like to see in the White House come inauguration day – Barack Obama, but only just.
In an exclusive poll conducted on our sister website www.totallyjewish.com over the past week, hundreds of Jewish News readers took the opportunity to tell us which of the two principal candidates they supported.
And it was the Illinois senator who won the day, with 52 percent of readers throwing their vote behind the Democratic candidate. That put Obama narrowly ahead of Arizona Senator John McCain, who secured 45 percent of the poll on the Republican ticket.
The result reflected the trend shown by a majority of American polling agencies this week, with CNN showing Obama at an eight point lead and a USA Today poll putting the Democratic candidate up by as much as 14 points.
The debate on which leader would best benefit Israel has received considerable attention with both sides of the spectrum insisiting they’re the dream ticket for the security of the Jewish state.
Writing in the Jewish News this week, the Republican Jewish Coalition stated that McCain “will defend Israel unconditionally and has consistently supported Jerusalem as the eternal, undivided capital of Israel”.
The Jewish Democratic Council, meanwhile, asserted that Obama’s plan for “real energy independence from Middle East oil means a safer Israel”.
A poll this week by the TNS Teleseker agency found that were the decision in the hands of Israeli citizens, it would be the McCain/Palin ticket headed to Washington. The survey, conducted on behalf of the Rabin Centre for Israeli Studies, showed that 46.4 percent of the country’s residents would throw their bid in for the Republican candidate, opposed to 34 percent who would like to see a President Obama.
Reflecting the views of many in the UK community, Jewish News columnist Rabbi Yitzchak Schochet, who lived in America for several years, said: “It’s a difficult decision because each has their strengths and weaknesses. Where McCain has the experience, Obama has the vision. McCain will probably maintain the status quo vis a vis Israel, but has an airhead for a Vice President. Obama is more suspicious on the Middle East, but has a Vice President with a proven track record in favour of Israel.
“On balance I would go with Obama because I’m a firm believer in change. There are those who are afraid of it – but as in the words of Churchill, ‘There’s nothing wrong with change if it is in the right direction.'”
Schochet’s criticism of the McCain ticket echoes the negative backlash that emerged after he picked Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as a running mate, a candidate that voters had little information on and whose verbal gaffes made her quick fodder for political satire.
The appointment may also have helped raise Obama’s numbers among Jewish voters, with a current Gallup poll giving the Democrat 74 percent approval from the Jewish community, a number that is more in line with the generally left-wing demographic. The party usually sweeps Jewish votes, with 2004’s John Kerry bid receiving 78 percent.
Some Obama supporters have been slow to celebrate, however, as a hindering US political theory called the Bradley Effect threatens to shorten the lead. The principal is based on the 1982 defeat of popular California gubernatorial candidate Tom Bradley, a black Democrat who was defeated on election day despite being ahead in the polls prior to the vote. Political analysts surmise that voters will tell pollsters one thing, not wanting to seem prejudiced, but vote differently. Were this to happen, Obama’s campaign could be in for an upset on 4 November.