Jews to Lieberman: Oy, Joe, enough already!

Barack Obama's share of the Jewish vote increased over John Kerry's four years ago, despite constant noodging from Joe Lieberman.

Published November 7, 2008 9:51PM (EST)

Joe Lieberman was supposed to be John McCain's secret weapon with Jewish voters. McCain's campaign sent the apostate Democrat all over the country, anywhere they thought his particular combination of foreign policy hawkishness and famous Yiddishkeit could help tilt the election McCain's way. He hit Shaker Heights, Ohio, and Elkins Park, Pa. And let's not even start counting the stops Lieberman made in Florida.

Which is why exit polls showing Barack Obama won 78 percent of the Jewish vote are so interesting. That's 4 points better than John Kerry did among Jews four years ago, and Kerry didn't send Lieberman out half as much as McCain did. (After all, McCain loves Lieberman so much he nearly put him on the ticket, before he settled on the shiksa from Alaska with the expensive taste in clothes.) In fact, Obama nearly matched Al Gore's 80 percent share of the Jewish vote -- and Gore did put Lieberman on the ticket.

The Republican Jewish Coalition, an organization that Lieberman might soon find himself joining, struggled to spin the exit poll findings earlier this week. The RJC was the main force behind the essentially bogus notion that Obama would have a big problem getting Jewish support; it didn't do a great job of explaining the situation when it tried. "In a very challenging and unprecedented political year, the GOP maintained the inroads it has made in the Jewish community," RJC executive director Matt Brooks said in a statement. "Compared to John Kerry's results four years ago, Obama increased his level of support among all voters. Yet Obama's gains among Jewish voters were smaller than among other key demographic groups." Yes, the theory there is that Jews are going Republican because Obama's gain among Jewish voters was smaller than it was among others. (I believe the Yiddish word for that is "meshugas.")

But in light of the attention McCain had Lieberman lavish on key states with large Jewish communities -- all of which he lost -- it's hard not to wonder if the exit polls don't actually show something else altogether, one that has nothing to do with Israel or social issues, or even politics, really. The guy runs all around the country, from synagogue social hall to synagogue social hall, talking up McCain and trashing Obama, and Obama's share of the Jewish vote goes up? Maybe the real hidden story of the 2008 election is this: Even Jews are sick of Lieberman's shtick by now.

By Mike Madden

Mike Madden is Salon's Washington correspondent. A complete listing of his articles is here. Follow him on Twitter here.

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