Tampa — Tropical storm Isaac did little to dampen the spirits of Republicans gathered for their nominating convention in Florida, and once the skies cleared and gusty winds died down, politicking was back in full force.
The three-day truncated convention, opening Tuesday in Tampa, has been described by commentators as Mitt Romney’s chance to reinvent himself by presenting a more likeable face to the American people. For Jewish Republicans, it is an opportunity to drive home a couple of messages they believe can help Romney win over a bigger slice of the Jewish electorate. There are also a series of Jewish-related events, from Rabbi Meir Soloveichik delivering the opening night invocation, to behind the scenes appearance by top donor Sheldon Adelson.
Republican activists speak of breaking the 30% mark in Jewish support in the upcoming elections. Democrats have admitted they might face a slight erosion in Jewish support from the 75%-plus share that Barack Obama took in 2008.
A key message for Jewish Republicans at the convention will be advancing the image of Mitt Romney as more supportive of Israel than Obama. Helping to make the point will be several events hosted during the convention by the Republican Jewish Coalition, including a “Salute for pro-Israel Elected Officials” and an event honoring Republican governors. Former U.N. ambassador John Bolton, a leading voice in the hawkish end of the pro-Israel spectrum, will also brief Jewish Republicans.
But a couple of events that had grabbed the headlines in recent days have made Jewish Republicans’ job just a bit more difficult.
First was the prominent role played by libertarian Ron Paul just before the convention officially kicked off. Paul, a former presidential candidate, held a rally in Tampa in which he accused “neo-conservatives” and “special interests” of pushing American foreign policy in the direction of overseas intervention. Paul is a well known critic both of Israel and of America’s support for the Jewish State.
Paul was not allowed to speak at the convention but organizers did include a tribute to the Texas congressman in the convention program. This was enough for Jewish Democrats to attack the GOP and for honoring the Israel critic. Jewish Republicans chose to look at the half full glass, pointing to organizers’ decision not to give Paul a speaking slot on stage.