(November 7, 2018 / JNS) Despite losing its seven-year control of the House of Representatives, the Republican Party added some seats to its Senate majority on Tuesday in the midterm elections.
Considering that the Israel—and increasingly, the rest of the Middle East—has become more of a partisan issue, GOP control of the Senate is crucial for U.S. President Donald Trump to continue his policies regarding Israel, at the same time as some in the Democratic Party have been leaning away from traditional support of the Jewish state.
“We were also really happy to see that every Senate Democrat in a tough race that supported the  Iran nuclear deal lost,” Republican Jewish Coalition spokesperson Neil Strauss told JNS. “We obviously made a huge investment in the North Dakota race, reminding the voters there that Heidi Heitkamp betrayed their confidence by supporting the deal, and that was a huge factor in that race.”
Strauss added: “And don’t forget, in 2015, we made a big investment in Indiana to make sure those voters knew that [Joe] Donnelly was betraying them to support President Obama’s failed Iran deal. The voters in Indiana didn’t forget, in part, because we wouldn’t let them.”
Idaho Sen. Jim Risch is expected to succeed outgoing Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker as chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee.
Here are the races previously noted to watch for regarding the Jewish and pro-Israel community.
Note: Jewish population figures are from 2012, and according to the North American Jewish Data Bank by the Jewish Federations of North America. All results are projections from the Associated Press.
Jewish Population: 106,300 (1.6 percent of state population)
Result: While the race to replace the retiring Jeff Flake remains too close to call, Republican Rep. Martha McSally leads Democratic Rep. Krysten Sinema, 49.3 percent to 48.4 percent, respectively.
McSally applauded the president’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, as well as to move the U.S. embassy there from Tel Aviv. She also supported Trump’s decision to nix American participation in the Iran deal.
While she was one of 25 Democrats to oppose the nuclear accord, Sinema flipped and opposed the decision to withdraw the United States from it. She is also a supporter of the Iron Dome missile-defense system.
Sinema’s past anti-Israel activism consisted of railing against what she called the “Israeli occupation” as a member of numerous anti-Israel groups like the Arizona Alliance for Peace and Justice, which decried Israel’s “disproportionate” use of “violence and oppression.”
Jewish Population: 638,985 (3.4 percent of state population)
Result: Too close to call, Republican Gov. Rick Scott leads incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson with 50.2 percent of the vote.
As governor, Scott signed an anti-BDS bill into law in 2016, which prohibits the state from investing in or doing business with companies that boycott Israel.
Meanwhile, Nelson, one of five Democrats running in a state that Trump won in 2016 to vote for Iran hawk Mike Pompeo’s confirmation as Secretary of State, supported the Iran deal and slammed Trump for the U.S. withdrawal in May (a decision that Scott supported) and said “pulling out of this deal now is a tragic mistake. It will divide us from our European allies, and it will allow Iran to build a nuclear bomb within a year, instead of preventing it for at least seven to 12 years.”
Jewish Population: 17,470 (0.3 percent of state population)
Result: Republican businessman Mike Braun is projected to upset incumbent Democrat Joe Donnelly, 52.9 percent to 43.1 percent, respectively.
Jewish Population: 59,175 (1 percent of state population)
Result: Republican Attorney General Josh Hawley is projected to unseat incumbent Democrat Claire McCaskill, 51.5 percent to 45.5 percent, respectively.
Hawley applauded the president for relocating the U.S. embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
Meanwhile, McCaskill supported the Iran deal and opposed U.S. withdrawal from it. Hawley slammed McCaskill and accused her of “standing with the mullahs,” according to an email blast from his campaign.
She also withheld her support for the Combating BDS Act of 2017, which “contains problematic language that conflates Israel and the territories under its control,” according to J Street PAC, which endorsed her.
Jewish Population: 76,300 (2.8 percent of state population)
Result: Jewish Democratic Rep. Jacky Rosen is projected to unseat incumbent Dean Heller, 50.4 percent to 45.4 percent, respectively. Heller was the only Republican to run in a state Hillary Clinton won in 2016.
However, she criticized the United States for exiting the Iran deal: “After the JCPOA was agreed to, it should have been robustly enforced—not used as a political football. … Unfortunately, backing out of this agreement means undermining our international alliances, jeopardizing our national security and re-opening Iran’s path to developing a nuclear weapon.”
Heller, on the other hand, said the nuclear accord was “never good for America or our friends in the Middle East.”
“This agreement has done nothing to stop Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon or promoting peace; in fact, it has done just the opposite,” said Heller in a statement. “Iran has been emboldened since President Barack Obama signed the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action three years ago.”
“The agreement, which handed Tehran billions of dollars to help bolster its military and spread terror around the world, represented a volcano waiting to erupt,” he added.
Jewish Population: 504,450 (5.7 percent of state population)
Result: Despite being tried on federal corruption charges (where there was a mistrial, and the DOJ declined to refile the charges), incumbent Democrat Bob Menendez is projected to fend off Republican and former pharmaceutical executive Bob Hugin, 53.1 percent to 43.8 percent, respectively.
However, in order to mollify the left amid the re-election cycle, Menendez opposed Trump’s decision this past May to withdraw America from the deal.
Jewish Population: 294,925 (2.3 percent of state population)
Result: Incumbent Democrat Bob Casey is projected to win re-election over Republican Rep. Lu Barletta, 55.6 percent to 42.8 percent, respectively.
While Casey has backed the Iran deal and condemned U.S. withdrawal from it, he favored moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem. He has also introduced legislation requiring the Department of Education to expand its definition of anti-Semitism to include support for the BDS movement and criticism of Israel that “demonizes,” “delegitimizes” or measures it through a “double standard.”
Despite controversial ties to white nationalism, Barletta fully supported Trump’s pro-Israel agenda, even being one of dozens of members of Congress to call on the State Department to allow “Jerusalem, Israel” to appear on U.S. passports.
“It is indisputable that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel,” said Barletta. “I am proud to stand with President Trump in recognizing this truth and applaud his decision to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem earlier this year after decades of broken promises by other presidents. However, I am disappointed that the State Department has yet to follow through on its end and fully recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.”
Jewish Population: 19,575 (0.3 percent of state population)
Result: In the race to replace Corker, Republican Rep. Marsha Blackburn is projected to win over former Democratic Gov. Phil Bredesen, 54.7 percent to 43.9 percent, respectively.
Blackburn strongly supported Trump’s decision to withdraw America from the Iran deal, while Bredesen did not issue any statement on the matter during the campaign.
“Iran is a terrorist state. Their goal is to destroy Israel,” said Blackburn in a 13-second video. “Their goal is to undermine the United States. They cannot be trusted. I applaud the president on his actions.”
Jewish Population: 139,505 (0.5 percent of state population)
Result: Incumbent Republican Ted Cruz is projected to win re-election over Democratic Rep. Beto O’Rourke after a tight race, 50.9 percent to 48.3 percent, respectively.
Cruz has been one of the staunchest pro-Israel members of Congress, opposing the 2015 Iran nuclear deal and vouching for the now-enacted Taylor Force Act to eliminate most U.S. assistance to the Palestinian Authority
Cruz is expected to introduce legislation that would mandate sanctions to block all Iranian access to the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication, or SWIFT, sources familiar with the legislation told The Washington Free Beacon. Even if Iran’s access to the financial messaging-services system is not blocked during the second round of sanctions, the president can take action by fiat.
SWIFT announced this week it is “suspending certain Iranian banks’ access to the messaging system” after U.S. sanctions were reimposed on Nov. 5. Iran will still be able to access SWIFT for solely humanitarian purposes, said Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin in a conference call with reporters on Nov. 2.
In a recent debate, Sen. Cruz accused O’Rourke of siding with J Street, labeling the group “rabidly anti-Israel.”
J Street took it as “a badge of honor.”
Jewish Population: 2,335 (0.1 percent of state population)
Result: Incumbent Democrat Joe Manchin is projected to win re-election against Republican Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, 49.5 percent to 46.3 percent, respectively.
Manchin has repeatedly been unafraid to break with his party, such as being against the Iran deal, though he announced his stance when there was already enough party support. He also supported U.S. withdrawal from the agreement.
Moreover, he was one of only two Democrats to vote in favor of David Friedman’s confirmation as U.S. ambassador to Israel.