The Republican Jewish Coalition was recently honored to have several prominent Republican elected officials, including Governors Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, John Kasich, and Scott Walker, address RJC leaders at our spring leadership meeting in Las Vegas. This meeting of Jewish Republican activists from around the country was convened at the Venetian Resort, of which RJC board member Sheldon Adelson is the majority shareholder.
Judging by the way some in the mainstream media covered the event, you would think the meeting took place in a one-man phone booth. Some wrote that Adelson “summoned” the governors to town. NBC’s Chuck Todd said, “A single billionaire (Sheldon Adelson) held a cattle call, and potential Republican presidential candidates showed up.”
The reason these governors and other speakers came to the RJC meeting is the same reason they and other Republican elected officials have come to the RJC’s meetings for nearly 30 years, regardless of where the meeting is held and regardless of whether Sheldon Adelson is there – it’s because we invited them and they want to talk with hundreds of Jewish activists who are proud supporters of a strong US-Israel relationship and the GOP.
Because of their obsession with one man, the media’s depiction of our meeting was exaggerated and ignored the real news story here: the warm relationship between the GOP and the American Jewish community.
Since 1985, the RJC has been the Republican Jewish voice in both the broader Jewish community and in the Republican Party. Our members are intensely active in both communities.
That’s because the Jewish community is regarded as an important and valued constituency within the GOP. Republican candidates at every level are committed to reaching out to the Jewish community. Republican decision makers and the grassroots support the core issues that matter to the Jewish community. To give just one example, Gallup and Pew polls over the last few years have consistently shown that Republicans are far more supportive of Israel than Democrats are.
Jewish voters are responding. In 2012, a very challenging year for Republicans overall, the Jewish vote for the Republican presidential candidate jumped almost 50 percent, from 22 percent in 2008 to 32 percent in 2012, a ten-point gain. Republicans have increased their share of the Jewish vote in five of the last six presidential elections. The bonds between the Republican Party and the Jewish community are strong and getting stronger over time.
The RJC leadership meetings over the years have been the venue for many prominent Republicans to get to know the Jewish community. Gov. Mitt Romney addressed our March 2006 meeting in Palm Beach, Florida. Senator John McCain spoke at our May 2006 meeting in Washington, D.C. Gov. Haley Barbour spoke at our March 2010 meeting in Las Vegas. Senator Rick Santorum spoke at our October 2010 meeting in Washington, D.C. Wherever we meet, party leaders regularly join us, not because of any one man, but because of their strong support for Israel and because our thousands of members are knowledgeable activists whose support for these leaders is important.
Any of the governors who attended the RJC meeting in Las Vegas could have met privately with Mr. Adelson at any time they chose. Those governors came to the RJC meeting to speak to 400 active, committed Jewish Republicans, because the Jewish community is an important part of the Republican Party. To portray the event as all about one Jewish man and his money is unfair to the governors, the GOP, and most of all, the Jewish community.
Matthew Brooks is the executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition.