The top four Republican presidential candidates will sit out Thursday night's debate before African-American voters at Morgan State University in Baltimore. But they will appear en masse at a forum planned next month by the Republican Jewish Coalition.
"This is the type of forum where it's necessary for them to participate," Allan Hoffenblum, a veteran Republican analyst told the Huffington Post. "You can turn down the Latinos, and you can turn down the blacks, but you can't turn down the Jews."
A spokeswoman for the Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) confirmed to the Huffington Post that Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, and former Tennessee senator Fred Thompson will all be in attendance for their 'Victory 2008' forum on Oct. 16. Joining them will be Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS), who will also attend the Morgan State forum.
Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee will sit out the Jewish group's forum due to a scheduling conflict. The other four GOP presidential hopefuls were not invited. RJC members will pay at least $500 to hear the succession of 45-minute speeches in Washington.
While the candidates have steered clear of important black and Latino voter forums, a number of factors make the Republican Jewish Coalition event one not to be missed. Candidates have a chance flaunt their foreign policy credentials -- and their hawkish policy proposals -- before a demanding audience.
"There will be a lot of discussion on Middle East politics and what their positions are," Hoffenblum, an RJC member, noted. "You'll find it's a forum where that can be discussed, and by the way, they better know what they're talking about, because these are people who are very active and knowledgeable in Middle East affairs, and they can't fake it."
The forum can also double as an important fundraising tool.
"It's realpolitik to go in front of Jewish voters" said John McWhorter, a Senior Fellow at the Manhattan Institute. "I fully understand Republicans who decide they will court the Jews, they are doing what rational candidates should do. Isn't it sad for me to say that as a black person? But I understand completely."
Still, some believe Republican candidates shouldn't put too much stock in the Jewish vote.
"The word is that [the Jewish vote] really helped Republicans in '04, but Jews are 2.3% of the American population, and that's still a really small group," said Arthur Brooks, a professor at Syracuse University's Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. "We're not talking about a large population here, compared to African-Americans, Hispanics, even compared to Asians."
McWhorter argued that GOP candidates shouldn't worry about alienating minority audiences that are already largely lost to them.
"Once the Republican candidates do something like this, they can be accused of being racist," he said. "But they would be accused of that no matter what. It's a matter of throwing a lighted match into a house fire."