Part of Mitt Romney’s visit to Israel last week was meant to highlight what he insists is a slight to the Jewish community: Obama has not visited the country during his first term as president.
The only Jewish governor in the country, Delaware’s Jack Markell, says that’s not likely to make an impact on the small number of undecided Jewish voters. Markell, who is emerging as a top Obama surrogate to Jewish voters, believes the Jewish community will vote overwhelmingly for Obama. In an interview with TPM Monday, Markell said the president’s decision not to visit Israel is likely of little consequence.
“I don’t know how much of a difference it really makes,” Markell said of whether a visit to Israel would have really boosted the president.
Israel and the United States have a strong relationship under Obama, Markell said.
“Both [Israeli Defense Minister Ehud] Barak and [Israeli President] Shimon Peres said within the last several months that the relationship between Israel and the United States on security issues is stronger than it’s ever been,” Markell said. “I think that’s very compelling on behalf of the president.”
“The president has taken a number of important steps including additional funding for security purposes,” Markell said. “And I think he’s gotten the message across that the relationship between the United States and Israel is still just incredibly important and I think people get that.”
Last month, Obama approved an additional $70 million in military aid to Israel.
Nevertheless, president’s absence from Israel has played well into the Romney campaign’s narrative that Obama is not a strong ally to Israel and become a major talking point in their outreach to Jewish voters.
“Barack Obama has never visited Israel and refuses to recognize Jerusalem as its capital,” a new ad from the Romney campaign states. “Mitt Romney will be a different kind of president, a strong leader who stands by our allies.”
Obama has not visited Israel as president, but he did visit in 2008 while he was running. The Washington Post, in pointing out the misleading nature of the Romney ad, noted that “only four of the last 11 presidents visited Israel during their presidency, and two — Nixon and George W. Bush — waited until their second term to make their first trip.”
Pema Levy is a News Writer at TPM covering the 2012 election. Before coming to TPM, Pema was an assistant editor at The American Prospect where she wrote about politics and the economy.