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Palin may drive some Jews from McCain, says political scientist

By Leon Cohen
of The Chronicle staff

September 25th, 2008

The most recent Gallup Poll to monitor the Jewish vote in the coming presidential election, taken in April, showed Jews going 61 percent for now-Democratic nominee Barack Obama and 32 percent for now-Republican nominee John McCain.

Prof. Lilly Goren

Prof. Lilly Goren

However, McCain’s selection of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin may have sent some of those Jews to Obama’s camp, said Carroll University professor of political science Lilly J. Goren to applause from some of the approximately 185 audience members at Congregation Beth Israel on Sept. 18.

Palin’s anti-abortion stance and her apparent links to the Christian religious right have “galvanized the Republican base,” but her views are “not as warmly accepted” in the Jewish world, she said.

However, she cautioned, “there is not a lot of data” about how U.S. Jews are likely to vote “at this point.”

Goren spoke about “2008: An Election of Historic Proportions” at an event organized by Koach. This organization is a partnership between area synagogues and the Harry & Rose Samson Jewish Community Center that provides lectures and discussions for adults.

History making

No matter what happens in November, this presidential election has made and will make history in numerous ways, Goren said. First, there is the unprecedented nature of the individual candidates:

• New York Democratic Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton ran “the first serious and fairly successful campaign by a woman” for president in American history. “She paved the way for women to run and be taken seriously” in the future, said Goren.

• Obama is both the first African American and the first native of Hawaii to be nominated by a major party.

• McCain, if elected, will be the oldest person ever to begin a first presidential term; and the first Vietnam War veteran, first cancer survivor, and first person born in the Panama Canal Zone when it was a U.S. possession to become president.

• Palin is the first woman nominated for vice president on the Republican ticket and the first Alaskan ever nominated for the post; and, if elected, she would be the first governor to move into the vice presidency since the 1970s.

• And whomever of the major party presidential nominees wins, that person will be the first senator to move into the White House since John Kennedy (D) in 1961.

Other history is being made in the course of the campaign, said Goren. This is the first presidential election in which the Internet is “fully integrated” as both a news medium and a means of fundraising, she said.

Other history might be made as events unfold. The primaries saw a nearly unprecedented upsurge of voters under 25, she said. But whether that will carry over into November remains to be seen.

Trying to measure that possibility through telephone surveys is impossible because pollsters by law are restricted to landlines, while the primary telephone of most young people today is the cell phone, Goren said.

Above all, the race is likely to be close. That could lead to a repeat of what happened in 2000, when Democratic nominee Al Gore won the popular vote by a narrow margin but Republican nominee George W. Bush won in the electoral college.

It is even possible, said Goren, that both candidates could tie in the electoral college. That would mean the election would have to be decided by the House of Representatives.

And that process involves not a vote of the total body, but of each state by the preponderance of its delegation. In today’s 110th Congress, 27 state delegations in the House are majority Democratic, 22 majority Republican, and two are tied.

But it would be the 111th Congress elected this November and sworn in this January that would do the voting, said Goren. So there could be “all kinds of possibilities.”