What does former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, who on Tuesday announced his second run for president, think of the Rubik's Cube-style conundrum for Republicans that is the Jewish vote?
Huckabee told me in December 2013 that he was hopeful that the downward trend in Jewish support for President Barack Obama—who garnered 78 percent of the Jewish vote in 2008, but 69 percent in 2012—would translate into an even stronger performance for the Republican nominee in the 2016 election. He questioned why anyone committed to the safety and security of Israel “would be supportive of the policies of Barack Obama, which you can call the most frighteningly non-supportive [U.S.] policies on the state of Israel since its inception.”
While he said he can understand traditional Jewish support for Democratic candidates based on their views aligning socially and economically, what Huckabee does not understand is Jewish support for Democrats “as it relates to the policy of a secure Israel.”
“If that’s a priority, and that becomes a defining factor in how people vote, then it’s inconceivable to me that they could give their support to someone who supports the current administration’s policies toward Israel,” Huckabee told JNS.org.
In a more recent interview I conducted—with former New York governor George Pataki, an expected but unannounced 2016 presidential contender—a question on Republican performance among the American Jewish electorate was met with a less direct response. Pataki told me that he prefers to leave such questions to the analysts and reserve his own energy for policy.
“I think it’s a mistake for a politician to say, ‘I’m going to do this because it appeals to this group, or that for another group,’” he told JNS.org. “I just try consistently to do what I can to advance policies that are right for the constituencies I represent. I’m very proud and grateful for the tremendous support I got from the Jewish community in New York over the 12 years I served as governor, not just in elections, but in advancing ideas and principles.”