Fearing tight race, GOP appeals to Floridas Jews

washington | President Bush’s first salvos against presumptive Democratic nominee Sen. John Kerry include shots carefully aimed at Jewish voters — a sign of the community’s importance in key states, especially Florida.

The race in Florida looks so close — the latest polls show Kerry and Bush neck-and-neck — that Republicans are focusing on Jewish votes and financial support.

“If we can get a message of President Bush’s leadership to the Jewish community clearly conveyed, we can make a significant difference,” said Adam Hasner, a Florida state representative and GOP organizer.

Bush surrogates have emphasized what they say are inconsistencies in Kerry’s support for Israel, especially regarding Israel’s West Bank security barrier.

Democrats have said Bush is just as vulnerable in this area, pressing Israel hard on the fence in 2003 but backing away in 2004, once the election campaign got under way.

“John Kerry has been clear and consistent: He supports Israel’s right to defend itself ,” said Mark Kornblau, a Kerry spokesman. “The Bush administration and John Kerry have both questioned the path of the fence, but never Israel’s right to construct the fence.”