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Joe Lieberman's sway extends only so far

May 22, 2008 |  3:00 pm

The full-throated backing that Democrat-turned-independent Joe Lieberman is providing Republican John McCain -- most recently evidenced in a Wall Street Journal op-ed piece Wednesday -- may well pay big dividends in the presidential election, especially in swing states with significant Jewish populations. But apparently there are limits to the persuasive powers of the senator from Connecticut. Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama has been campaigning in Florida partly in an effort to overcome skepticism toward him among Jewish voters

Deep in a richly reported New York Times story today on deep-seated skepticism toward Barack Obama in Florida's Jewish enclaves, perspective is provided by Rabbi Ethan Tucker, Lieberman's stepson and co-founder of a Manhattan-based Jewish learning organization.

Tucker, 32, the biological son of Lieberman's wife, Hadassah, opines that an age split is apparent within the Jewish community in attitudes about Obama (as has also been shown in the overall Democratic constituency). Tucker, as paraphrased by reporter Jodi Kantor, asserts that younger Jews "have grown up in diverse settings and are therefore less likely to be troubled by Mr. Obama’s associations than their elders."

Those "associations," of course, include Obama's controversial ex-pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, whose praise of Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan has especially rankled many Jews.

But here's the detail about Tucker in Kantor's article that really caught our eye:

"Rabbi Tucker said he had given money to Mr. Obama and would vote for him in the fall. 'If association was the litmus test of identity, everyone would be a hopeless mishmash of confusion, or you’d have no friends,' he said."

Obama, in an effort likely to be repeated if he finally nails down the Democratic presidential nomination, sought to improve his standing among Jews with an appearance today at a synagogue in South Florida. He stressed his commitment to Israel, as you can read here.

-- Don Frederick

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