Boca Raton, Fla. — Amid the political drubbing of President Barack Obama in the Republican presidential candidates’ debates and in campaign television commercials here, the local Obama For America campaign headquarters opened in this Broward County city Saturday evening with balloons, pizzas and assorted desserts.
“We had about 400 people here,” said a campaign worker who asked not to be identified because he is not an offical spokesman.
Many of those in attendance were young people in their teens and 20s and many signed up to volunteer, adding their names to the charts posted on the walls.
Mark Alan Siegel, vice chairman of the Florida Democratic Party, expressed optimism that Obama would capture more of the Jewish vote in November than the 78 percent he garnered in 2008.
“The differences between [political] parties has never been wider and clearer,” he explained. “The four Republican candidates cheer for executions and death through sickness. And they are interested in the State of Israel only for their own purposes — not Israel’s —and associate with the worst elements in the Israeli system.”
One of the Jewish volunteers, Letty Kenney, 72, of Delray Beach said she had worked for Obama in his 2008 campaign and admitted to being “a little disappointed” in his performance as president.
“I believe he should have been more forceful and insisted on a health plan like members of Congress have rather than wasting his time dealing with people who are trying to make sure he is a one-term president,” she said.
But although Kenney said she believes Obama has “not done enough for Israel,” she said he “has provided more weapons for Israel” and done so much for the Jewish state that she is again supporting him.
“I was not going to work again for Obama, but what frightens me is the Republican philosophy, such things as keeping the Bush tax cuts,” she said. “I believe everyone in this country deserves health insurance and deserves to be fed and deserves a chance. Newt [Gingrich] said he would let poor people be janitors. Yet I go to the temple every Friday night and learn that the Torah teaches that we should be kind to our fellow man and to treat others the way you want to be treated.”
But she said that although 85 percent to 90 percent of the Jews in her housing development voted for Obama four years ago, he would be lucky to get half of their votes in November.
At the headquarters’ sign-in desk, Jewish volunteer Kathy Salmanson, 66, of Boca Raton, noted that she had made aliyah in 1995 and that her daughter and son, who is an officer in the Israeli army reserves, still live there.
“On the whole, I think Obama has done a terrific job with what he had to work with,” she said. “I’m glad he is taking stronger stands now. And I have no question in my mind that Obama is with Israel.”