TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – On the eve of President Donald Trump officially announcing his reelection bid in Florida, there’s a push to convince more Jewish voters to vote Republican.
Gov. Ron DeSantis' recent trip to Israel could start tipping the balance towards the GOP and help the president's reelection campaign.
Becoming governor was a race DeSantis won by just over 32,000 votes.
In Florida, Jewish voters are about 5% of the electorate.
A 2018 CNN exit poll found 19% of Jewish voters voted Republican. That’s more than double DeSantis’ victory margin.
So will the governor’s trip to Israel pay future political dividends? Zionist Organization of America President Mort Klein said it will.
“Gov. DeSantis, as a congressman, was the greatest friend supporting U.S.-Israel relations in the United States,” Klein said. “Republicans have become much stronger supporters of U.S.-Israel relations than Democrats. That wasn’t true 20 or 30 years ago.”
State Rep. Randy Fine, the only Jewish Republican in the Florida Legislature, agreed Democrats tend to fall behind in their support for Israel.
"In many corners of the other side, being an anti-Semite is seen as some sort of a badge of honor, and that’s not OK,” Fine said.
While waiting for the governor at the Western Wall in Jerusalem, two Miami men who are both Jewish, Yechiel Cinert and Joseph Leuchter, said they voted for DeSantis.
“The Republican Party has morphed into this, you know, this pro-Israel party, right, even more so than the Democratic Party, which I think, you know, hasn’t fallen on deaf ears,” Cinert said.
“There's also latent, anti-Semitic elements now in the Democratic Party,” Leuchter said.
Big elections in Florida are decided by less than 1%, so any movement in Jewish voters can have a big impact.
“I have a lot of Republicans come to me and say, 'My gosh, how can any Jewish voter vote for a Democratic given Israel?' But I think that’s very simplistic to view Jewish voters that way,” DeSantis said.
It's not an accident the president begins his reelection campaign in the biggest swing state, where its governor is Israel's best friend.
Jewish Floridians make up about 3.5% of the state's population, but account for about 5% of all registered voters in the state.