Mitt Romney’s campaign announced Friday that Ron Paul would receive a video tribute at the convention — part of an effort to appease Paul supporters and to highlight Romney’s supposedly warm relationship with the Texas congressman. But Paul’s opposition to aid to Israel, his dismissal of Iran’s nuclear program and his newsletters’ shout-outs to antisemitic conspiracy theories could complicate the GOP’s outreach to Jewish voters.
Former New York City Mayor Ed Koch, an Obama supporter and one the most prominent pro-Israel voices in the Democratic Party, said Paul’s convention role drags down the Republican brand among Jewish voters.
“This will make it easier for me when I go to Florida and talk about not only the fact that the Republicans want to destroy Medicare and Social Security and Medicaid and the right of abortion — they also allow someone who I see as an old David Duke to join their ranks,” Koch said. “I’ll be there talking primarily to the Jewish community, and I think they will understand what that means.”
Koch has broken with the president in the past over Israel. In 2011, he endorsed Republican candidate Bob Turner in a special House election last year, a move aimed at pushing the White House closer the Israel.
Romney often uses Israel as a wedge issue against Obama. After a trip to Israel last month, he ran ads challenging the White House to break with bipartisan past precedent and move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem. But Romney has overlooked his and Paul’s policy differences in favor of stressing their friendship.
“Rep. Paul’s people came to us and said they’d like to do a short tribute to him, and we said absolutely, it would be a good time to do that,” Romney strategist Russ Schriefer told reporters on Friday, citing the “mutual respect” between Paul and Romney.
David Harris, president of the National Jewish Democratic Council, told TPM that Romney’s embrace of Paul at the convention was “profoundly disturbing and utterly unsurprising” and urged pro-Israel Republicans to walk out during the Paul tribute.
“The GOP has utterly failed the ethics and moral test of dealing with Paul,” he said.
Nonpartisan and Republican Jewish groups have clashed with Paul in the past as have pro-Israel conservative pundits. During the primaries, conservative Washington Post blogger Jennifer Rubin called the GOP’s failure to isolate Paul “appalling to those familiar with his racist and anti-Semitic newsletters” and said his success “should be an object lesson to the party in general and to the other candidates specifically about treating him respectfully.”
The Republican Jewish Coalition barred Paul from a candidate forum last year, citing his “misguided and extreme views.” But the RJC seemed reluctant to even acknowledge Paul’s inclusion.
“We are pleased that Ron Paul was denied any formal speaking role at the convention and that the RNC has worked so that his name will not even be put in nomination,” RJC executive director Matt Brooks told TPM in a statement. “This reflects the broad consensus that Ron Paul and his views are outside of the mainstream of the Republican Party.”
Richard Grenell, a former spokesman for Romney on foreign policy, told TPM that “Ron Paul’s commitment to limit government’s involvement in our daily lives is the future of the Republican Party.”
He added: “I only wish Ron Paul’s foreign policy positions could be outsourced to John Bolton.”
Benjy Sarlin is a reporter for Talking Points Memo and co-writes the campaign blog, TPM2012. He previously reported for The Daily Beast/Newsweek as their Washington Correspondent and covered local politics for the New York Sun.