Newt Gingrich’s latest jab at his competitor reflects back to a 2003 incident. While governor of Massachusetts that year, Romney vetoed $600,000 in spending on kosher meals for Jewish nursing home residents.
State legislature later restored that funding by bill amendment.
Gingrich told of the veto yesterday at a Pensacola campaign event. “(Romney) has no understanding of the importance of conscience and importance of religious liberty in this country,” he said.
Romney also “imposed on Catholic hospitals provisions against their religious strictures,” Gingrich said.
What remains to be seen is how much influence this latest flashback will have on today’s Florida primary.
Florida sits third highest of the 50 states and Dist. of Columbia in Jewish population (638,635), according to the Jewish Virtual Library, and ranks sixth in percentage of total state population (3.4).
Local Jewish voters indicate this revelation substantially affects their perception of Romney, who Summerville resident Susen Shapiro called “a putz” after learning of the 2003 incident.
“While Romney is in Florida sucking up to nice old Jewish grandmothers, his record shows that his real feelings are ‘let them eat ham,’" Shapiro said.
“How would he feel if Mormons in a nursing home had to wear Fruit of the Loom instead of magic Mormon underwear?” she added, stabbing at that faith’s temple garment tradition.
Romney’s religious identification has already been a burden on his campaign.
A Pew survey from last November found that 33 percent of all Republican voters do not regard the Mormon faith to be Christian. Those self-identifying as “evangelical” reject the Church of Latter Day Saints even more; 53 percent say it’s not Christian.
This perception may have had effect on South Carolina’s Jan. 21 primary. A CNN exit poll of participating voters found 65 percent to self-identify as “born again” or “evangelical.” Only 22 percent of that group selected Romney in the contest. Sixty percent of all voters participating in South Carolina’s Republican primary said religious beliefs of the candidates had some influence on their vote.
Romney finished a distant second in that race.
The latest polls, all completed before Gingrich’s statement last night, predict Romney to win today’s Florida primary with projections ranging from 36 to 47 percent of the vote.
In 2008, 40 percent of Floridians voting in the GOP primary identified themselves as “evangelical.”