RJC in Vegas Where Trump, Others Woo Jewish Voters
As the Republican Jewish Coalition held its annual meeting in Las Vegas, a number of potential, and one announced, 2024 candidates and others spoke to the political group following the midterm elections.
A rising sophomore at Georgetown University, Nathan plans to major in government and minor in film and media studies as well as statistics, hoping to eventually get into a career creating digital content for campaigns or covering them for the Atlanta Jewish Times and other media outlets.
Only a week and a half after the midterm elections, Republican politicians flocked to Las Vegas as the Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) held its annual meeting. With the Georgia runoff still weeks away, the focus was not on winning the last remaining election for many speakers but on arguing for their vision of the future of the Republican party; with a second focus on combatting antisemitism and supporting Israel.
The meeting, seen by some as the first step towards the 2024 presidential primary, provided Republican politicians with a supportive crowd that emulates the crowds necessary to win early primary states; although Iowa isn’t quite as Jewish as the Venetian hotel was for the event. With speakers ranging from former President Donald Trump to Gov. Larry Hogan (R-MD) and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the speakers covered the right-wing range of Jewish politics in America.
Beginning on Friday night, a Shabbat dinner included several potential candidates for the 2024 race, including former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and former Vice President Mike Pence. The tension eased from the room as Pompeo joked about the upcoming primaries, with Trump being the only announced candidate, saying, “Who knows, the next time we are together we could be on a stage, multiple podiums, who knows…Who knows what nicknames we may have.”
Emulating what would be the energy for the rest of the weekend, as many candidates alluded to what may lie ahead in the coming months while centering their speeches on the issues facing the Jewish community. The main issue of the weekend, besides the disappointing recent midterm results, was how to build on the accomplishments of the Trump administration and, as Pompeo said, “reserve the things that are happening to our nation today.”
Pompeo, along with Pence and Gov. Hogan, on Friday night seemed to lay out versions of what voters in Iowa and New Hampshire may expect to hear in the coming months and years. Almost all the potential 2024 candidates, which also included Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), who spoke on Saturday, emulated similar levels of pride in the Trump administration’s accomplishments while laying out their own visions for the Republican party.
Some of those visions, such as former Gov. Chris Christie’s, more directly lambasted Trump for the party’s disappointing election results. Christie directly blamed Trump for the party’s electoral results over the past couple of years, saying, “Since that night in 2016, politically, as a party, we have done nothing but lose.”
He continued, attacking Trump’s picks for candidates to applause at the RJC, saying, “Donald Trump picked candidates with one criterion, only one, not electability, not experience, not wisdom, not charisma, not the ability to govern, but do you believe the 2020 election was stolen or not.” It was not a shocker to those in the room when, on Saturday afternoon, just prior to President Trump speaking, when a group of podcasters asked for those in the room to cheer for their supported candidate for 2024, that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis received the largest cheer.
Trump’s virtual remarks Saturday afternoon were greeted by the crowd with loud applause, as many in the crowd wore Trump branded-yarmulkes and other paraphernalia. Trump’s remarks heavily focused on his administration’s successful efforts to move the Israeli embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, as well as his withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal. The room was less supportive when Trump repeated one of his favorite claims around Jewish support for Israel, saying that “in the United States, Jewish people don’t appreciate Israel the way they should. And I’ll tell you who does appreciate Israel very much are the evangelicals because evangelicals are on your side.”
Although the room gave President Trump numerous standing ovations, particularly for leaving the Iran deal and moving the Israeli embassy to Jerusalem, Gov. DeSantis also received some of the largest applauses later in the evening for laying out his conservative agenda, which he has enacted in Florida. DeSantis ingratiated the room early on in his speech, telling a story of how he visited Israel and collected water from the Sea of Galilee which was used to baptize all his children. He also boasted of Republican victories in Florida, particularly amongst Jewish voters, as he noted, “We won the highest share of the Jewish vote for any Republican candidate in Florida history.”
Former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, also seen as a potential 2024 candidate, received applause during her speech both for her conservative leadership in South Carolina as governor as well as for supporting Israel at the United Nations. Haley rebutted Christie, and argued for herself as a potential 2024 candidate, telling the crowd, “I disagree we had weak candidates…I disagree our losses were due to one person…There is a self-loathing sweeping across America…if Biden succeeds in getting the Iran Deal passed, the next president will shred it her first day in office.” Even with some division over Trump’s recently announced candidacy and the results of the midterm elections, the Republican Jewish Coalition did bring together a wide variety of conservatives as they prepare for the upcoming Georgia runoff and beyond.
Elan Carr, former Special Envoy for Monitoring and Combating antisemitism under President Donald Trump, told the AJT that the event was inspiring, and would help energize the Republican group to galvanize Jewish support for candidates in upcoming elections, saying, “It’s inspiring, it’s energizing for all of us, you feel the energy in the room, and look, after a conference like this, we’re ready to go forth and, and affect our country and make America stronger and make Israel stronger.”
Even though the coalition is based around supporting Republican candidates, issues that go beyond the division of party lines like combatting antisemitism were discussed heavily at the event, as Carr said, “It’s very easy to find Jewish unity in a conference of a Republican Jewish Coalition. Of course, the Jewish community is a lot broader than this…I think it’s very, very important that we do our part, not preaching to the choir or going out and winning converts…the fact is, no matter what party you’re in, no matter what kind of ideological worldview you subscribe to, the Jewish people have to unite around basic principles of Jewish safety, and fighting antisemitism, and standing against the new anti-Israel, the vicious hostility and hatred of the State of Israel, and of Zionism, and even of Jewish people.”
Although it only supports Republican candidates, the RJC conference showed that there is no shortage of support for the Jewish people amongst many of the Republican party’s top politicians, even as some in the party have come under fire for antisemitic remarks, such as Georgia Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene.
Matt Brooks, executive director of the RJC, explained that the RJC is already in the process of “redeploying our entire field staff” to Georgia, as they prepare for the upcoming runoff. Sam Markstein, RJC’s national political director, laid out the RJC’s efforts in Georgia even further, saying, “RJC volunteers are already on the ground conducting extensive Jewish grassroots outreach efforts, with an emphasis on the week of Nov. 28, when early voting begins. RJC will be working hard through Dec. 6 to elect Herschel Walker to the Senate.”
This year’s conference, effectively dubbed the “Kosher cattle call” by former White House Communications Director Ari Fleischer, cemented the fact that the Republican party is heavily courting the traditionally Democratic-leaning base of Jewish voters, as the party’s top brass attempted to get support from the coalition’s members ahead of the ever-approaching 2024 primary.
- Nathan Posner
- Republican Jewish Coalition
- 2024 presidential primary
- President Donald Trump
- Gov. Larry Hogan
- Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
- Secretary of State Mike Pompeo
- Vice President Mike Pence
- Sen. Tim Scott
- Sen. Ted Cruz
- Gov. Chris Christie
- Gov. Ron DeSantis
- Iran Nuclear Deal
- Sea of Galilee
- U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley
- United Nations
- Elan Carr
- Special Envoy for Monitoring and Combating Antisemitism
- Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene
- Sam Markstein
- Herschel Walker
- White House Communications Director Ari Fleischer