An Interesting E-Mail Response

I recently received an e-mail response to one of my posts analyzing the swing state Florida, which I had cross-posted on openleft. This person, a former field organizer in Broward County, took issue with my characterization of Senator Joe Lieberman and his role in gaining Jewish support in south Florida.

I found the e-mail quite interesting and informative, especially in its familiarity with Jewish voting dynamics. The text of it is below:

Thank you very much for your openleft diary on Florida as a swing state.  As someone who worked on staff for the Obama Campaign in Broward County, I found much of your analysis to be spot on and thank you for sharing it with the netroots community.

However, I take serious, serious issue with one aspect of your diary:
A final note. In 2000, Al Gore chose Senator Joe Lieberman, a Jewish-American, as his running mate. In large part due to this, he performed extraordinarily well in Palm Beach and Broward; Lieberman’s presence ensured unusually high Jewish support. In fact, Gore did better than Obama in the two counties, despite Obama’s far stronger national performance.
You have zero proof for this fact.  I worked in heavily Jewish areas (whose residents, by in large, despise Lieberman now and who told me they weren’t too big of a fan of his conservative views even when he was running for VP), and found no evidence to support your assertion.  Indeed, Barack Obama OUTPERFORMED Jewish Congressman Robert Wexler in the heavily Jewish precincts of Tamarac, FL, as you can see from the Broward SOE’s site.  Gore-Lieberman was 67.42% of the vote in Broward, to Obama’s 60.02%.  Jews nationally voted almost identically in 2008 to 2000- indeed even the NATIONAL (I repeat national, because they are not poll results from Broward County and Jews vote differently in different parts of the country and according to their age groups, amongst other factors) poll numbers you posted were so similar as to be likely within the margin of error.  As you pointed out, a more likely factor explaining the .4% difference between Obama’s margin and Gore’s could be the DECREASE in the Jewish population in the county rather than any Lieberman push.  As you correctly noted, Broward County’s Jewish population has gone down in the past 8 years relative to the general population.  Since Jews are such a huge source of Democratic votes, their decrease may very well explain Gore’s marginally better percentage.

In any case, I point these facts out only to hold you, as a blogger, accountable for providing facts rather than repeating conventional wisdom.  I myself was surprised to see just how negatively the Jews I met in South Florida viewed Joe Lieberman.  Of course, Lieberman himself has changed over the years, but I by in large met Jews who were much, much more progressive than him and the Democratic Party as a whole.  The Jews I met favored socialized medicine (in their own words) and universal free education, as well as leaving Iraq immediately.  I found many of the media stereotypes of elderly Jews in Florida (including Sara Silverman) to be misleading and unfair.  I had to confront my own stereotypes as well as a result.

I hope you would post some of these counter arguments, statistics, and facts (I encourage you to go to the Broward SOE’s website, there are some fascinating pieces of data such as the Wexler-Obama one I looked up) on your blog to make sure the full story is told.
Thank you again for your time and for bringing attention to an important swing state’s demographics and electoral patterns as we gear up for another election!

This analysis is quite different from conventional wisdom, which states that Vice President Al Gore’s nomination of Mr. Lieberman bumped his performance in south Florida. That common explanation was reflected in making my post. This person’s explanation for President Barack Obama’s performance in the county (the population decrease in Jews) provides an interesting and plausible analysis I had not thought of. Mr. Lieberman might have done far less good as a vice-presidential candidate than commonly thought (then again, most of the media didn’t think him a particularly effective candidate in the first place).

Nevertheless, I do think that the man did gain former Mr. Gore some Jewish support, if perhaps not in south Florida. Gore’s stronger performance compared to Obama in several New York counties with substantial Jewish populations (e.g. Rockland County, Nassau County) seems to hint at this.

Finally, I encourage anybody reading this to actively respond to my posts, by e-mail or by comment. There are political buffs out there who have far more expertise than me in specific areas (e.g. the Jewish vote), and I will happily post insightful responses on my blog – as I did with this response.

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