Michael Bloomberg defended Barack Obama in a speech to Jewish voters in Florida this morning.
According to the Palm Beach Post, Bloomberg told an audience at an event organized by the Jewish Federation of South Palm Beach County not to believe the "online whisper campaign" against Obama.
Bloomberg’s day in Florida — he will be making three separate appearances — has all the markings of a Kevin Sheekey project.
It’s two days after a poll indicated Barack Obama is doing better than expected in that all-important battleground state, and, not insignificantly, as Bloomberg has been mentioned (for what that’s worth) as a long-shot potential running mate for both major-party nominees.
As Florida-based Republican consultant Rick Wilson told me earlier, “Any presidential candidate of any party is going to dedicate significant resources in Florida — and anyone playing in the vice presidential sweepstakes is going to spend a lot time here.” He added, “It is a place that is always going to get a lot of presidential traffic.”
It’s also not an accident that Bloomberg is choosing to address one of the key swing groups in a key swing state.
According to Wilson, 4.8 percent (167,000 people) of Palm Beach County voters are Jewish–the voters on whom much attention has already been focused as Obama tries to shore up their support. In addition, 400,000 Jewish voters live in the surrounding counties, in the same media market.
“They’re going to get a visit, and they’re super-high-propensity voters,” Wilson said. “They’re interested, alert, the ‘condo-commandos.’ They vote in the primary, they vote in the general.”
The topics Bloomberg has decided to speak about are unmistakably vital issues in any general election. “Education is always a safe issue,” Wilson said. “But now people are concerned about fuel prices, energy costs and things like that.”
According to his public schedule, the mayor is delivering the keynote speech at the Excellence in Action Education Summit in Orlando at noon, and then touring a solar energy center.
Simcha Felder, an Orthodox Jewish city councilman in Brooklyn and ally of the mayor, says Bloomberg’s appeal extends far beyond the five boroughs. “I think any culture, including Jews who live in New York and move elsewhere, always remain connected to New York. There’s a kindred spirit.” He added, “The reason Rudy Giuliani did well with Jewish voters in Florida wasn’t because he was Jewish [he’s Catholic], but because he’s a New Yorker.”
Bloomberg’s full remarks, in which he also notes that John McCain has been a victim of smears, is here.