Today, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) meets with Orthodox Jewish leaders in Brooklyn. On Saturday, he will be the only Republican presidential candidate going to Las Vegas to speak to the Republican Jewish Coalition. As he faces primary battles in states with significant numbers of Jewish voters (New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Pennsylvania, etc.), this is smart politics, an instance in which a small effort could lead to big gains.
There are plenty of reasons to believe Cruz will make headway here. While neither Donald Trump nor Cruz was the first choice of many Jewish Republicans, who strongly supported Jeb Bush and to some extent Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Cruz is plainly the more informed of the two on issues ranging from religious liberty (an issue for the Orthodox community) to robust support for Israel.
This is another instance in which Cruz’s superior organization (including senior adviser Nick Muzin, a well-respected Jewish Republican with a deep knowledge of Israel) gives him an advantage. He did not start courting these voters this week. The Post reported last month:
Cruz, the son of a pastor, has spent several years aggressively courting the support of Jewish voters, particularly those who are Orthodox. Touting his conservative views on Israel, his opposition to the Iran nuclear deal and his adherence to traditional values, Cruz has found a conservative niche in the Orthodox community in a Jewish faith that leans Democratic overall.
Cruz has another card to play, one that flows from his legal background and focus on constitutional issues. For minority groups, Jews included, constitutional protections insulating civil liberties from popular prejudice and inhospitable executives are especially valued. When Trump says he is going to order troops to commit war crimes or going to “open up” libel laws, that’s a flashing red light to many in the Jewish community. Stressing that Trump is both anti-democratic (little “d”) and intolerant of dissent, Cruz certainly can make the case that Trump is a threat to our Constitution-based system and tradition of inclusion. In short, Trump scares many voters, Jews included, for whom the Constitution is a bulwark against prejudice.
Finally, at his AIPAC speech last month, Cruz made a point of saying that as president he would strip universities supporting the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement of federal funding. For Jewish parents of college students (or children who will go to college), this is not a theoretical issue, but rather a real-world concern as BDS movements spread and fuel anti-Semitism on college campuses. They want someone to stand up to college administrators whom they perceive as weak and complicit in BDS activities.
Cruz does not plan on winning New York, but he can compete for delegates who are awarded by congressional district. He and his staff may find success — if only because they are making an effort — to woo a small but critical group, one that also included some prominent GOP donors who have yet to climb on board with Cruz. Whether it makes a difference in primary results in New York and elsewhere remains to be seen, but it is a reminder that Cruz’s attention to detail and operational strength are more critical than casual observers would believe.