GOP presidential candidate Ted Cruz had the audience all to himself Saturday, and he took the opportunity to warn Jewish Republicans about the dangers of voting for Donald Trump.
He told his audience that such a vote would be an “absolute disaster” for the GOP, “for conservatives and for the country.”
There were about 500 people at the weekend gathering in Las Vegas of the Republican Jewish Coalition, most of whom were still pretty neutral. The “can’t miss” Republican event is held at the hotel resort of billionaire casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, the top political spender in the last political race.
“All three candidates were invited to attend our group today, but Sen. Cruz was the only one to accept our invitation,” said RJC board member Michael Epstein as the crowd applauded.
Trump and Kasich were both in New York, gearing up for the April 19 primary election.
“Many are scared by the concept of Donald Trump and the presidency,” Republican Jewish attorney Charlie Spies, a former supporter of Jeb Bush, told the Daily Mail. “No American politician should be compared to Hitler because of the unique, horrific nature of the Nazi genocide. Having said that, there is an issue of tone and being able to whip up crowds, often directed at segments of society that get scapegoated. Anybody who has studied history would be concerned watching that.”
Of the three Republican candidates who remain, Ohio Governor John Kasich is the overwhelming favorite among registered Jewish voters, according to a poll commissioned by the Republican Jewish Coalition and shared privately this weekend with board members. Cruz falls in the middle.
The Texas senator won the recent primary in Wisconsin and in Colorado on Saturday, and is working now to consolidate those Republican donors who are most opposed to a Trump candidacy. Cruz will still have to work hard to transform those donors from anti-Trump to pro-Cruz voters; he still has to neutralize a threat from Kasich, whose presence could split a vote and destroy Cruz’s chance to overcome Trump’s lead, if nothing more.
In New York he may have a better chance to make a dent in Trump’s popularity edge that one might realize.
“Cruz has been reaching out to that community for a long time,” Nathan Diament, executive director of the Orthodox Union Advocacy Center told CNN this weekend.
Cruz appeals to the strictly observant Jewish community, Diament said, in part due to his Senatorial record of support for Israel, his school choice advocacy and his relentless insistence on the need to defend religious liberty protections on the campaign trail.
“Orthodox Jewry is a sort of values-based community and Cruz certainly presents himself like a values-based person … And he uses language that resonates with people of faith, so there’s a connection there,” Diament said. A more important point — unlike Trump, Cruz also has a real track record to refer to, he noted.