Here’s a potential political earthquake story that has nothing to do with the debate. Siena College, which specializes in polling New York state, has a survey with a gobsmacking result: It finds Trump getting 46 percent of the Jewish vote vs. 52 percent for Joe Biden. In 2020, according to the Associated Press’s VoteCast, 68 percent of American Jews supported Biden, while 30 percent went for Trump. (Pew had it 70-27 for Biden.) New York’s Jews make up about 30 percent of the overall Jewish population in the United States, and the Jewish vote nationwide is thought to follow the same pattern as the Jewish vote in New York.

If this were to hold, Trump would receive the highest level of Jewish support of any Republican presidential candidate in modern history. Jonathan Sarna, the dean of American Jewish historians, notes that the Jewish vote in presidential elections became a Democratic possession as early as 1928, when Jews cast ballots overwhelmingly for their governor, Al Smith, against Herbert Hoover. Over the nine decades following, only Dwight Eisenhower (in 1956) and Ronald Reagan (in 1980) got as much as 40 percent of the Jewish vote.

This potential sea-change will likely not hand Trump a victory in New York in November, but here’s the deal: The state that may decide the election is Pennsylvania. It just so happens Pennsylvania has nearly 300,000 Jewish adults. Jews are said to vote in huge numbers, somewhere around 80 percent.

That would mean 240,000 Jews voted in Pennsylvania in 2020. If 70 percent of them chose Biden, he received about 170,000 Jewish votes. If that were to drop to 50 percent in 2024, Biden would receive 120,000 Jewish votes—a decline of 50,000 from the previous election. Pennsylvania went for Biden by 80,000 votes in 2020 after going to Trump by 45,000 in 2016.

This could be the game right here. The decline in support for Biden among Jews is real, and if that decline is dramatic, it could make the difference in the key(stone) state. I leave it to you to figure out why Jews are deserting Biden. OK, I won’t leave it to you. Had he continued with the steadfast and unambigous support of Israel he showed in the first two months of the war in Gaza, Jews would likely be garlanding him today. Instead, he sent wild and confused signals about the morality of the conflict and stood mostly mute as campuses were lit aflame and anti-Semitism became a daily factor in Jewish lives across the country.

His people feared the wrath of Arabs in Michigan. They forgot Jews can get mad too. They forgot it because they took the Jewish vote for granted at a time of existential peril. And also because, if I’m right about all this and the Siena poll is accurate, they are just as boneheadedly stupid as they appear to have been when they decided it would be a good idea for Biden to debate. Or when Biden himself decided he needed to debate.

 

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