A $250,000 digital push by the Jewish Democratic Council of America looks to focus swing-state Jewish voters’ attention on U.S. Donald Trump’s handling of the coronavirus with a hard-hitting new advert.
The ad, part of a larger campaign, juxtaposes Trump’s words minimizing the virus’ impact with Kaddish, the sacred Jewish prayer of mourning, as on-screen numbers show the mounting U.S. death toll from the coronavirus, which has claimed at least 210,000 American lives.
The video shows a man placing stones on a grave, as in the Jewish tradition.
American Jews are traditionally strong supporters of the Democratic party. Pew polling showed that 71% of the U.S. Jewish community voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016 and just 24% voted for Trump.
While Trump’s campaign has tried to appeal to Jewish voters by touting his record on Israel, including moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem and recognizing the city as the capital, backers of Democratic nominee Joe Biden see the pandemic and other domestic issues as more potent drivers of Jewish support for the party's ticket this fall.
“The Jewish community is in mourning due to the devastating loss of human life from the coronavirus, and many of us are saying Kaddish," JDCA chairman and former Florida congressman Ron Klein said in a statement, the Cleveland Jewish News reported.
"Each Saturday, my father and I attended shul together until he contracted and succumbed to the virus a few months ago,” he said.
“The Jewish community in South Florida, including my own family, has been deeply impacted by this devastating disease. The magnitude of this tragedy could have been avoided.”
The ad came under fierce criticism from the Republican Jewish Coalition, which branded it "a big zero."
“This ad does nothing to win over undecided voters; it’s awful," RJC chief Matt Brooks told the Jewish News Syndicate.
"If a voter already feels Trump mishandled the virus, then they’re already voting for Biden… couple that with the fact that they aren’t spending any money on it, and it all adds up to a big zero.”
The president is currently battling his own bout of COVID-19, as are many in his administration, including senior aides Kellyanne Conway and Stephen Miller, White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany, Trump's body man Nick Luna, and GOP senators Mike Lee, Thom Tillis and Ron Johnson.
The Council is part of new efforts by three liberal groups aimed at souring religious voters on Trump ahead of next month’s election, fresh signs of growing left-leaning investment in courting that sector even as Trump’s campaign works to consolidate his devout conservative base.
And another digital ad from the New Moral Majority PAC featuring left-leaning pastors urges “every single soul to get to the polls” and support Biden.
The projects include $625,000 in partnerships formed by leading Democratic super PAC Priorities USA with the three faith groups.
Together the initiatives pale in comparison with spending by conservative Christian groups during this campaign, such as the $50 million in get-out-the-vote spending by the evangelical Faith and Freedom Coalition.
But with Biden’s campaign devoting significant resources to courting devout voters, betting it can cut into Trump’s advantage even among evangelicals, the rise in outside liberal spending on religious voter engagement is notable.
Trump’s foothold with white evangelicals gets ample attention, “but there are millions of voters who are not white evangelical conservatives, who practice various Christian faiths and faiths of other types,” Guy Cecil, chairman of Priorities USA, said in an interview.
Priorities USA, which plans to spend $200 million this election, has routed resources to the liberal-leaning groups Faith in Public Life Action Fund, Black Church PAC and Faith 2020 to fund digital ads and organizing in swing states and nationwide, depending on the group.