It’s never been easy for Jewish Republicans. Jews have broken overwhelmingly for Democratic candidates since Woodrow Wilson. Despite rising American Jewish affluence, usually a harbinger of conservative voting patterns, a plurality self-defines as liberal.
Republican Jews have poured millions into upping their share of the Jewish vote in recent elections, portraying the GOP as the pro-Israel party and telling largely affluent Jewish Americans to vote their economic self-interest. The needle has only moved a little, despite those efforts: 80 percent of Jews voted Clinton in 1992, 79 percent voted Gore in 2000 and 74 percent voted Obama in 2008.
In 2012, as the Republican share of the overall vote rose two points, the Republican share of the Jewish vote rose 8 points, from 22 to 30 percent. Seventy percent of Jews voted Democrat, a four-point drop from 2008.
Organizations like the Republican Jewish Coalition have kept pushing despite it all. Most Jews don’t vote primarily based on Israel, but as Democrats passed a controversial Iran deal and condemned Israel’s West Bank occupation, Republicans saw a window of opportunity.
Republicans doubled down on the Israel case at their national convention in Cleveland last month. Donald Trump, Mike Pence and a handful of other speakers included lines in support of Israel in their speeches and drew loud applause. President Barack Obama’s support of Iran’s nuclear program, anathema to the Israeli government, was a nightly punching bag.