Ted Cruz works to woo Jewish Republicans

Story highlights

  • Cruz is striving to consolidate the faction of Republican donors who are deeply opposed to Trump
  • Many donors have eagerly given to anti-Trump super PACs

Las Vegas (CNN)Ted Cruz gathered top campaign and super PAC donors here over wine and pistachio macaroons on Friday evening, kicking off a weekend-long push to win over the party's biggest financiers.

Cruz and about 40 leading contributors marched into a restaurant in The Venetian hotel as the first full day of the Republican Jewish Coalition spring meeting ended. Cruz is set to speak to the influential group on Saturday afternoon.
    The Texas senator, ascendant in the GOP presidential race after drubbing Donald Trump in Wisconsin, is striving to consolidate the faction of Republican donors who are deeply opposed to Trump. Many donors have eagerly given to anti-Trump super PACs, but many of those have not joined the cluster of pro-Cruz groups -- which is what the candidate is hoping to change this weekend.
    And there were early signs of success; Cruz was joined late Friday evening at Aquaknox restaurant by several people who are donors to the RJC but are not on his national finance committee, which is gathering at the Venetian simultaneously this weekend.
    Senior campaign aides, super PAC aides and representatives from GOP megadonor Sheldon Adelson, who has been elusively neutral in the GOP race, were also on hand. Aides to the campaign and super PAC will brief top donors beginning Saturday morning.

    Outreach to Jewish voters

    Cruz's speech Saturday at the gathering of Jewish Republicans is just the latest in a string of moves Cruz has made to lock up that community's support as the New York primary approaches.
    The Texas senator began subtly pivoting to those efforts in his Wisconsin primary victory speech, during which he not only touted the need to support Israel, but also name-checked Jewish day schools as he vowed to protect religious liberty.
    Cruz's outreach to Jewish voters picked up steam as he landed in the Empire State and hit the pavement in Brooklyn's Jewish Orthodox enclave of Brighton Beach where, flanked by Orthodox Jews, he joined a group of children in making matzo, the unleavened bread observant Jews eat during Passover.
    Later on Thursday, he remarked to CNN's Dana Bash that "we've got tremendous support in the Jewish community, tremendous support especially in the orthodox community."
    "The energy and enthusiasm we had here today was tremendous," Cruz said of his stop in the frum bastion. "I've been privileged to speak at synagogues all over the country. And in particular, to focus on defending religious liberty, which has been a passion of mine my entire life. And focus on standing with Israel."
    While Trump is holding onto a wide lead over Cruz in New York, the state's congressional district-based system for doling out 81 of its 95 GOP convention delegates presents an opportunity for Cruz to make some inroads in targeted districts. And Cruz is targeting those with heavy Jewish Orthodox populations.
    "Cruz has been reaching out to that community for a long time," said Nathan Diament, executive director of the Orthodox Union Advocacy Center, pointing to Cruz's speaking slot at a ritzy Passover getaway last year.
    Cruz's appeal to the strictly observant Jewish community, Diament said, stems from the Texas senator's record of support for Israel, his school choice advocacy and his relentless hammering of the need to defend religious liberty protections on the campaign trail.
    Diament said that while some Orthodox Jews are attracted to Trump's candidacy, Cruz's legislative record and values-oriented candidacy give him a leg up on the brash billionaire.
    "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.
    Just this Thursday, Cruz introduced a bill to help return art stolen by Nazis during the Holocaust.
    And while Trump, as the candidate himself likes to point out, only recently became a politician, Cruz "actually has a record to point to," Diament said.