Talk about timing.
The final presidential debate Wednesday at Hofstra University dealt specifically with the economy. How appropriate given that the world’s financial markets have gone into a meltdown.
The debate came as both candidates were touting their economic credentials on the campaign trail. McCain even unveiled a new economic plan during a stop in Blue Bell, Pa.
And according to Daniel Shapiro, the dialogue of both campaigns likely will stay focused on the financial crisis — for now, at least.
“I think clearly at the moment there’s intense day-to-day focus on the economic situation,” said Shapiro, the senior Middle East advisor to the Barack Obama campaign, “and that’s understandable given how serious the financial crisis and the performance of the markets have been.”
But Shapiro is not out of a job yet, and he expects the voters’ attention will again turn to foreign policy issues shortly before Election Day.
“We fully expect the voters to consider issues other than economic issues by the time they get around to voting,” he said.
Shapiro visited Pittsburgh this weekend, meeting at a private home with Obama supporters and undecided voters.
Most Jews, he believes, are not single-issue voters. And he expects them to consider Obama’s entire record when they vote, as well as Sen. John McCain’s.
“In the Jewish community, it’s always a mix,” he said. “There’s always an issue related to foreign policy and there’s always issues of a social nature that really speak to our community’s values.”
The most critical foreign policy issue for Jews, he believes, is Iran.
“Iran is probably the lead [foreign policy] issue; everyone is deeply concerned that an Iranian nuclear weapon would pose an existential threat to Israel — and it would. So they’re looking for a priority to be given to that issue, but also a strategy for keeping that threat from being realized.”
He called the prospect of a nuclear Iran “just an unacceptable threat that we cannot allow to come to be realized.” He also said it would strengthen other radical elements in the Middle East.
Shapiro is a longtime political operative with Democratic members of Congress. He has also worked at the U.S. National Security Council during the Clinton administration and as a legislative advisor and deputy chief to then Rep. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.).
(Lee Chottiner can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)