With presidential hopeful Mitt Romney’s selection of Paul Ryan as his running mate on Saturday, the frenzy of commentary began. About Ryan’s love of Israel. About his potential unpopularity in Florida. Even about the hometown he shares with Russ Feingold.
We may have gotten ahead of ourselves. In the immediate aftermath of Romney’s Jewish love-fest in the Levant–a successful trip if you consider who Romney was trying to court–there seemed to be a heady expectation that the great electoral Jew-woo would continue in its full swing. It’s understandable: Iran and Israel have been on the front burner for so long that it became easy to think that whatever factors would influence Romney to pick his running mate would be based on foreign policy matters.
Turns out, the central focus of the election now is an issue that Jews care about more than Israel, Iran, the Middle East, and foreign policy added together and multiplied: the economy. Accordingly, when the pick came in, here’s some of what was said, little of it having to do with Israel:
Matt Brooks, Republican Jewish Coalition:
“Paul Ryan has challenged both party leaderships in Washington to face up to growing fiscal problems that threaten to blight our nation’s future. And while congressional Republicans have responded to the challenge, Democrats have ducked responsibility.”
David Harris, National Jewish Democratic Council:
“Ryan’s signature budget plan drew the profound concern and even ire of many in the American Jewish community because of its plans to end Medicare as we know it, slash vital social safety net programs, and increase the burden on seniors, the middle class, and the poor.”
Peter Beinart added this:
Romney’s best hope for reversing the GOP’s declining Jewish fortunes would have been to remind American Jews of the cultural and economic moderation he showed as Massachusetts governor. Indeed, were he still the Romney of a decade ago—pro-choice, pro-gun control, pro-gay rights, and pro-universal health coverage—he might be on his way to grabbing 40 percent of the Jewish vote. But any trace of that Romney died when he chose Ryan. The race for the American Jewish vote is now probably over. Oh well, there’s always 2016.
Jonathan Tobin at Commentary fought back with this:
As I wrote earlier, it is an open question as to whether the American public will be willing to choose Ryan’s ideas about reforming our out-of-control tax and spend cycle over Democrat demagoguery intended to defend the status quo. But whatever the outcome of the election, the liberal boasts about turning Ryan into another Palin will fail miserably.
And The Jewish Journal piled on with this:
Ryan could do more to keep Jewish voters in the Democratic column than any other single factor in this election. Republicans will try to avoid specifics about the impact of Romney-Ryan policies and they will tout Ryan’s courage in tackling tough fiscal issues like entitlements, but voters like their entitlements (not so much yours, but they like their own), and if they fear Ryan and Romney will take them away, they’ll vote Democratic. Again. Jewish voters, with their strong affinity for programs serving the needy and the elderly, could be the first to punch the “no sale” button on the Romney-Ryan ticket.
Liberal Surprise: Ryan Can’t Be Palinized [Commentary]
Romney Lost American Jewish Vote By Picking Ryan [Daily Beast]
How Ryan Pick Will Motivate Jews [Jewish Journal]
Jewish Dems and GOPs Trade Barbs on Ryan [Forward]
Adam Chandler was previously a staff writer at Tablet. His work has appeared in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Atlantic, Slate, Esquire, New York, and elsewhere. He tweets @allmychandler.