While Ted Cruz might be out of the presidential race, some Republican Jews who supported the tough-talking Texas senator in the primary say they plan to vote their conscience in November by supporting the candidate who cares most about their core concerns: illegal immigration and national security. For them, that means supporting real estate mogul and presumptive nominee Donald Trump.
Trump’s path to the nomination became all but inevitable May 4, once Cruz and Ohio Gov. John Kasich suspended their campaigns after the celebrity businessman’s win in Indiana. The outcome has upset a number of Republicans throughout the country, leading some to switch sides and pledge support for Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton.
Cruz’s defeat in New York, where Trump won all 89 delegates, was particularly crippling when factoring in the support the senator got from the state’s large Orthodox Jewish community, said Cruz senior advisor Nick Muzin, who is himself Orthodox.
“Both from a voting perspective and people that were involved in the campaign, as far as people who provided moral support, Jews played a huge role,” he said. “A lot of our major supporters financially were Jewish.”
Muzin, a Silver Spring resident, said the campaign spent a good deal of time in synagogues reaching out to Jewish communities across the country. He also noted that Cruz had received awards in the past from pro-Israel groups such as the Endowment for Middle East Truth for his work in the Senate on pursuing justice for Israeli victims of Palestinian violence. He noted that Cruz has earned the reputation of the “foremost champion of Israel in the U.S. Senate.”
Asked if he planned to support Trump, Muzin said he is undecided and first wants to see the businessman bone up on foreign policy.
“I am open to supporting Mr. Trump, but would like to see an evolution on details and what his polices will be on Israel and on other issues in the Middle East,” he said.
Muzin’s wait-and-see attitude about Trump differs from that of Bethesda resident Gail Weiss, who said she is perfectly happy to support Trump, who will “upend the status quo.”
“He has shown a savant-like ability to get his message out and past the filter of the professional media, and certainly no Republican has been able to do that in my lifetime,” she said.
Weiss, an active member of the Montgomery County Republican Party, said she was undecided heading into the primary between Trump, Cruz and Kasich. She voted for Cruz because of his intelligence and experience in arguing cases before the Supreme Court before he became a senator, she said.
“I thought all three candidates offered pluses and minuses, and then I asked myself, who seems the most presidential and who seems the smartest?” she said.
Nevertheless, Weiss said that she had reservations about Cruz’s electability in the general election due to his strict pro-life stance on abortion.
“I think the laws should be clarified, but I think there should be a cutoff point where abortions are not legal except in cases of rape, incest or life of the mother,” she said, adding that she did not agree with any candidate on all of the issues. “But certainly in the early stages of a pregnancy, I think women should be able to make that choice for themselves.”
Weiss said she is encouraged by Trump’s views on immigration and agrees that his temporary ban on Muslims entering the United States is reasonable given the number of international terrorist attacks carried out by Islamist extremists.
“I think culturally, unfortunately, it’s ironic that Islam keeps claiming that the West is attacking them when in fact the reverse is true, they are attacking the West,” she said.
Weiss said she understands that terrorist groups comprise only a small percentage of Muslims, but they must first “get the evil out of their own ranks” before she can feel comfortable.
“Until there is a big enough public uprising of them against the radical jihadists then they’re unfortunately going to be painted with the same brush,” she said.
Immigration is also a key issue for Rockville resident Brad Botwin, who said he supports the idea of the United States being a melting pot, but that illegal immigration has led to too many people coming into the country and not assimilating, making it closer to a salad bowl.
“As a Jew, my great-grandparents came over early 1900s legally into Ellis Island, and I have always been interested in this issue,” he said.
Botwin, a government employee, grew up in a family of Democrats in New York and was a Democrat himself up until the 1980s, when President Ronald Reagan’s “peace through strength” approach to taking on the Soviets changed his ideology. He had been a Cruz supporter from the beginning, volunteering locally for the campaign and making small donations.
“When he announced he was going to run for president, I thought that was great,” he said.
Botwin now fully supports Trump and said the candidate’s divisive rhetoric doesn’t bother him because Trump is simply “stating the facts.”
“I don’t mind the brash talk,” Botwin said. “I’m from New York and that’s how people talk up there. Is he the most articulate guy? Neither am I.
“The only thing that he says is that he opposes illegal immigrants coming in here, so I didn’t think there was anything wrong with it.”
Botwin said he is concerned about both immigration and homeland security, and said he thinks security could be improved by making the airport security process more selective in screening.
“We’re not getting blown up by Australian visitors or Buddhist visitors. The terrorists, by and large, are Muslims. You need to focus on what the problems are,” he said.
Botwin said security at U.S. airports should be as strict as it is in Israel.
Despite Trump’s lack of government experience, he has won supporters like Botwin through many of his accomplishments as a real estate tycoon. Among them, in the 1980s, he built Trump Tower, and despite initial opposition from New York City Mayor Ed Koch, renovated the old Wollman Rink.
Botwin said the country has not had a president with Trump’s gumption since the days of Harry Truman, and that it is time for such a leader.
“People don’t like change, they want the same old, same old,” he said. “This is what we need, a little kick in the pants to get things going.”