Published for the Wall Street Journal, August 6, 2012
Will Jewish voters go for a conservative Mormon? That’s been the question since Mitt Romney secured the GOP nomination. The more intriguing question for 2012 may be this: Will Jews vote for a conservative Jew?
We’ll find out come November in Ohio. In what has become one of the most high-profile races in the country, Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown faces a challenge from the state treasurer, Republican Josh Mandel. The race is interesting for two reasons.
The most obvious is that Ohio is a swing state. If the 2012 presidential race represents a choice between two opposing philosophies, Brown versus Mandel may be the paradigm. The lines are clear: an incumbent Democrat whom the National Journal has twice ranked as the most liberal member of the United States Senate against a Republican who calls himself a “full-spectrum conservative.”
Less well noticed is what this race may be saying about the future of the Republican Party. For the last few years, our nation’s newspapers have groaned under the weight of solemn treatises bewailing how conservative today’s GOP has become. What these stories have largely missed is what Ohio’s Senate race shows so clearly: the face of Republican conservatism is changing too.
Mr. Mandel is part of that new face. A nice Jewish boy who signed up for the Marine Corps and did two tours of duty in Iraq, he attributes his decision to serve in uniform to his family’s history. Specifically, he cites a grandfather whose Nazi concentration camp was liberated by U.S. troops in World War II, a grandmother who was hidden by a sympathetic Catholic family in Italy, and another grandfather who served in the U.S. Army Air Corps.
“Next to marrying my wife, joining the Marines was the greatest decision in my life,” Mr. Mandel tells this reporter.