2020 Election: Democrats can’t afford to ignore their Israel problem

Like it or not, the 2020 presidential election is already starting to heat up. Progressive Democrats are visiting early primary and caucus states, while a few old guard Democrats have been testing the waters since Hillary Clinton conceded to Donald Trump in 2016.

But while more and more Democrats hope to make President Trump a one-term White House resident, the astute ones will take note of one factor that played a decisive role in the GOP’s grabbing a larger Senate majority in the 2018 midterm elections:  support for Israel.

{mosads}During the recent midterms, if you got all your news from the old guard press, you likely were unaware that support for the Jewish state was an important issue. By contrast, readers of new media outlets were well informed of far-left Democrats running for Congress who were clearly anti-Israel or even blatantly anti-Semitic.

Operating a decade behind the times, mainstream media outlets tend to think the Israel issue is moot because Jewish voters overwhelmingly vote Democratic regardless of their views on Israel. What the mainstream media fail to realize is that support for Israel is extremely important to millions of Christians, especially Evangelicals.

The organization that had perhaps the biggest impact this past Election Day is Christians United for Israel, through its legislative arm, CUFI Action Fund. With over 5 million members, CUFI is the largest pro-Israel organization in the United States. But what also sets them apart is that their members can be counted on to show up at the polls and cast their ballot for the candidate that is best for the Jewish state.

Judging from states with Democratic incumbents that went GOP this past election, it is clear that support for Israel can be a game changer. 

In Florida, Republican Gov. Rick Scott defeated longtime incumbent Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson for the Senate. Nelson supported the Iran nuclear deal, which remains to this day extremely unpopular among supporters of the Jewish state.

{mossecondads}CUFI has over 270,000 members in the Sunshine State. These reliable voters know exactly who supported the Iran deal and who ultimately has Israel’s back.

From a media perspective, the Israel issue was a bigger deal in Florida’s gubernatorial race. Tallahassee mayor Andrew Gillum (D) lost his bid for the state’s highest office to former Republican Rep. Ron DeSantis. DeSantis criticized Gillum for supporting the Black Lives Matter offshoot Dream Defenders, a group that supports boycotting the Jewish state and has a history of working with convicted terrorists and the terror organization Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. Even though Gillum denied that he supports the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel, his support of Dream Defenders was arguably enough to sink his campaign.

CUFI Action Fund was most active in North Dakota. While they do not endorse any candidates, by Election Day, North Dakota voters had received a thorough education via television ads that incumbent Democrat Sen. Heidi Heitkamp supported the Iran nuclear deal. Before those ads began running, Heitkamp was in a tight race with her opponent, Republican Rep. Kevin Cramer. By election night, she was a double-digit loser.

States such as Missouri and Indiana that saw their blue senate seat turn red on election night also have significant CUFI membership. Organizations such as the Republican Jewish Coalition made sure voters in key races knew the Democratic candidates’ positions on Israel.

“The Republican Jewish Coalition invested in independent expenditures in three important races (in Pennsylvania, Virginia and North Dakota)—and Republicans won all three,” said Executive Director Matt Brooks in a statement.

The Cook Political Report credited the RJC for turning PA-1 from toss-up to lean Republican after they educated voters on Democrat Scott Wallace’s family foundation supporting boycotts against Israel to the tune of $300,000. Democrat Leslie Cockburn in VA-5 was a media darling in a race that opinion poll analysis website FiveThirtyEight deemed a toss-up.  But the RJC made sure voters knew her anti-Israel history that included authoring the 1991 book Dangerous Liaison: The Inside Story of the U.S.-Israeli Covert Relationship, which the New York Times characterized as “Israel bashing for its own sake,” adding that its message was that Israelis “are a menace” responsible for “everything that ails us.” She ultimately lost by a significant 6.6 percent.

“With approximately 50 events nationally per month, CUFI’s field staff is in constant education mode. That’s all they do and it never stops, whether it’s an election year or not, because the message always matters,” explained CUFI Action Fund Chairwoman Sandy Hagee Parker.

“What makes us unique,” Parker reflected, “is that CUFI members don’t see Israel as a political issue, but as an exercise in their faith – and that will never change.”

Paul Miller is president and executive director of the news and public policy group Haym Salomon Center. Follow him on twitter @pauliespoint.

Tags Bill Nelson Donald Trump Heidi Heitkamp Hillary Clinton Kevin Cramer Ron DeSantis

More Politics News

See All
See all Hill.TV See all Video