The Masters Of Spin
RJC puts their best face on some rather disappointing results
-- Daniel E. Loeb
Anticipating the rout of the Republicans in the 2006 Congressional election, the
Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) used their own
flawed polling data instead of the National Election Pool’s exit poll data
in order to reassure their donors that the money spent on the until then
unprecedented ad campaign had not been spent in vain.
During this election season the RJC took their
ad campaign to an even higher level, spending over two million dollars not
only in full-page ads, but even on the television. With the landslide victory of
Barack Obama --- despite his middle name and the many advertisements focusing
the attention of the Jewish community on it --- the Republican Jewish Coalition
held a press conference shortly after the election to take stock of the results.
In his press release originally entitled “Republicans Continue to Maintain
Inroads in the Jewish Vote Despite Obama Gains in the Rest Electorate”
Matt Brooks showed nothing of the kind.
The bottom line is Obama carried 78% of the Jewish vote this year, a clear
progression over Kerry, who had the support of 74% of the Jewish community in
2004. The RJC scrutinized this year’s results not in comparison with the 2006
“poll” which they commissioned from Republican operative Arthur J. Finkelstein,
but with the very National Election Pool’s exit poll data which they spurned at
that time. Matt Brooks took solace in the fact that Obama’s gains were not as
great as they were in three other demographic groups: Latinos, Catholics and
African-Americans. Matt Brooks claimed Obama’s inability to match the gains made
within those three groups was a great victory on the part of the RJC over the
Obviously, the Jewish vote was already very high in 2004 compared to Catholics
and even Latinos so there is a limit as to how much further Jewish support for
the Democratic Party could increase. Keep in mind that while African-Americans
may have had an initial bias towards voting for Obama due to their common
heritage, the Jewish community clearly had an initial bias against voting for
someone of a different race with a Muslim father. As the general election
campaign began, Obama had the support of only
57% of the Jewish community. However, as the campaign wore on, the Jewish
community took a better look at Senator Obama. The Obama they saw during the
debates did not fit the narratives they were being told, and as a result the
Jewish community by and large repudiated the heated, nasty rhetoric from the
While the national exit poll did not break down the Jewish vote by state, if we
assume the Jewish vote was equally distributed, Obama’s advantage within the
Jewish community in many states was a significant proportion of his overall
margin of victory.
The Question and Answer period which followed the press conference was lively as
journalist after journalist questioned Matt Brooks’ assertions. Eric Fingerhut
questioned why during the course of the RJC anti-Obama ad campaign Obama
steadily increased his support from 57% in September to 78% in November. Matt
Brooks claimed they knew all long Obama’s support would increase and took pride
in holding him to 78%. However, when the first poll came out on September 25,
Brooks in an
interview with the Jewish Telegraphic Agency predicted even “bigger gains
come Election Day.
Shmuel Rosner from Ha’aretz asked if Obama succeeded in convincing Jews that he
really is a friend of Israel. Matt Brooks replied that if Obama did succeed in
doing so, the RJC could take credit for doing so. In fact, Obama was taking
strong pro-Israel positions even among the gentile electorate in Iowa long
before he gained the front-runner status and became the lightning rod for RJC
Hillary Krieger asked if the RJC ad campaign backfired since they were “over the
top” and the Jewish community “could not accept their premise”. Again Matt
Brooks refused to take responsibility for his ad campaign saying that
“everything we talked about was agreed to be legitimate and the numbers prove
Nicole Noralias said she could not accept the premise that Obama underperformed.
“Wasn’t he supposed to be at 60% not 77%.” Matt Brooks said the polling was done
by Gallup not by the RJC and rejected any responsibility for the change. He
insisted that one must compare demographic groups. Nicole followed up by asking
if in retrospect Matt Brooks thought the RJC could have done something
different. Matt Brooks rejected any blame: “No, we were swimming against an
irresistible tide once the economic disaster hit.”
Finally, Eric Fingerhut brought the irony of Matt Brooks changing his tone so
soon after the election. Prior to the election, the RJC characterized Obama as
“dangerously naïve” but now Matt Brooks claims the RJC wants to work with Obama.
Eric also took objection to the RJC’s claim that they were “outgunned” by the
Democrats when the RJC spent many times more than the NJDC, the Great Schlep,
and Jews for Obama combined. Indeed, the Obama campaign did fight a great ground
game, bringing over one hundred Jewish surrogates to over a dozen states and key
At that point in the phone press conference, Matt Brooks claimed that none of the
callers had any additional questions and signed off. While the Philadelphia
Jewish Voice appreciated the opportunity to participate in this press
conference, it did signal immediately at the beginning of Q&A that we would like
to ask a question, and we signaled again when they called for more questions.
After the press conference, we sent the RJC the following email in hopes that
some technical glitch prevented our question from being noticed.
To: Matt Brooks, Republican Jewish Coalition
From: Daniel Loeb, Philadelphia Jewish Voice
I was surprised at the end of the conference call when you called for more
questions and then terminated the call because there were none. I had signaled
on my numeric keypad that I had questions from the beginning of the Q&A.
Assuming this is a technical glitch of some sort, I hope you look into it and
get it resolved.
Here is the question I had prepared, and a number of other thoughts that flowed
out of other people's remarks. I would be grateful if you could respond to them
in writing, or agree to be interviewed for a future column in the
Philadelphia Jewish Voice.
- Your advertising argued that in comparison with McCain, Obama surrounds himself
with anti-Semites, does not understand the Iranian menace, and would make undue
concessions to the Iranians at the expense of Israel. Is this consistent with
(a) the repeated opposition (as recently as last month) of McCain & other
Republicans to legislation that would stop US companies like Halliburton from
doing business developing the Iranian petroleum industry, and (b) Obama's
reported selection today of Rahm Emmanuel as his chief of staff?
- The NJDC labeled your advertising as unfair and discouraged surrogates from
participating in RJC organized events. How do you respond to those charges and
to the NJDC's response? Do you expect to resume coordinating events with the
NJDC in the future?
- Since Obama beat McCain by 7% in the popular vote while Kerry lost to Bush by 1%
in the popular vote, are you not making a mountain out of a mole hill by touting
that the Jewish vote "only" increased by by 4%? Indeed one could argue that
there is not much room left for growth in the Jewish vote.
Despite several follow-up emails and phone calls, we have yet to receive any
response to our questions. Political action groups often engage in “spin”, but
Matt Brooks has taken spin to a new level.
Did you enjoy this article?
- share it with your friends
so they do not miss out on this article,
(free), so you do not miss out on the next issue,
(not quite free but greatly appreciated) to enable us to continue
providing this free service.