The Republican Jewish Coalition, having lost a powerful leader in Washington with the defeat of former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, is doubling its efforts to maintain the unified, hawkish support it has built over the years as it faces concerns that some of the party's priorities may be shifting.
On Tuesday, the group, which includes Las Vegas casino giant Sheldon Adelson and most of the GOP's largest Jewish donors, will meet in Washington for a reception to commemorate the swearing-in of New York Republican Rep. Lee Zeldin, the freshman representative who has replaced Cantor as the only Jewish Republican
in Congress, reports Politico.
Many key pro-Israel supporters are expected to attend the steakhouse event, including Sens. Ted Cruz, Texas; John McCain, Arizona; and Rob Portman, Ohio. Former Vice President Dick Cheney is also on the guest list.
Adelson in 2012 spent more than $100 million to help Republican candidates and was the third-largest donor in 2014, contributing $13.2 million. He is said to favor a governor for president, reports Politico, Already Bush, Christie, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker have all met privately with him and also spoke at the RJC's annual spring meeting, held at Adelson's Venetian casino hotel.
The JRC is not only concerned about the lack of congressional representation from members of their faith, however, but also about the Obama administration's ongoing negotiations with Iran over its nuclear policy and about the non-intervention stance from key Republicans such as Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, a potential presidential candidate in 2016.
To prepare for the 2016 race, the group has been talking with several potential candidates and offering to arrange trips to Israel for them like it did for New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Texas Gov. Rick Perry.
Many of the top Jewish donors are lining up behind former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, whose support for intervention is much like that of his elder brother, George W. Bush.
Zeldin told Politico that it is important that a candidate emerge who "recognizes the consequences of America being weak and inconsistent with our foreign policy,” noting that President Barack Obama's difficulties with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has allowed the party to reach out to Democrats who favor a strong defense for Israel.
As a result, in 2014, Pew Research Center exit polls
showed Republicans took 33 percent of the Jewish vote, compared to just 12 percent in 2006, even though American Jews' views on issues such as gay marriage and abortion rights tend more to align with the Democrat Party.
But in addition to concerns about Israel, Republicans should also be concerned about a lingering concern among Jews and African-Americans that "southern Republicanism is the product of racism,” Johns Hopkins University political science professor Benjamin Ginsberg told Politico.
Party members should be more worried
about House Majority Whip Steve Scalise's possible speech to a white supremacist group in 2002 than about isolationism, Ginsberg commented.
Meanwhile, Zeldin insists he is doing all he can to represent his constituents but will not hesitate to take a role in issues that are related to Jewish interests. He has already been scheduled to join the congressional Foreign Affairs Committee and has been named as co-chair of the House Republican Israel Caucus.
“Fortunately, the issues that come with the turf of being the only Jewish Republican in Congress also happen to be exactly where I stand on all these issues," said Zeldin.
There are about 30 Jewish Democrats in Congress, including power players like New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, who is the third-ranking Senate Democrat and Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who chairs the Democratic National Committee.
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