As national security continues to dominate the presidential primary season, J Street is launching an aggressive political campaign.
The liberal-leaning pro-Israel group, which expects to raise more than $3 million through its political action committee for federal candidates, is also going on the offensive against Republican Sens. Mark Kirk of Illinois and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, who opposed the Iran nuclear deal. “Our core drive this cycle is to really fundamentally change the calculus on the politics of diplomacy,” said Ben Shnider, J Street national political director. “We want to prove this cycle… that a diplomacy first approach to foreign policy is not just good policy, but also savvy politics.”
The group has already raised more than $1 million and plans to support more than 110 candidates this year. J Street, which raised $2.4 million and supported 95 candidates in the 2014 election cycle, is not currently running TV or radio ads. But Shnider said “all tactics are on the table.”
J Street ran a multimillion-dollar campaign with national and state-focused television and print ads to promote President Barack Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran. That effort also included a series of polls to get American-Jewish opinions on the deal and put Israeli and American diplomatic experts in touch with key stakeholders in states where lawmakers were undecided about the pact.
Shnider said that many Republican presidential candidates are “seizing on voters’ anxiety to set up military intervention in the Middle East.”
“Lines are really being drawn here,” Shnider said. “We see national security scaling voters’ lists of concerns. We think this is set to be the first national security election since the invasion of Iraq.”