Kasich and Cruz did as expected in their presentations to the AIPAC policy conference this evening, Trump surprised, and President Obama—as was to be expected– got roughed up. On the substance they were not that dissimilar. Kasich, Mr. Nice Guy of the remaining GOP candidates, gave a fine speech with few surprises and continued to take the high road in his campaign. As many Republicans who served on the Hill during the fight to free Soviet Jews, Kasich began by extolling his advocacy work on behalf of this cause as influenced by Avital Sharansky. (This strategy was frequently employed by those Members who had only a minimal interest or record of support for Israel at the time, to demonstrate their connections to Jewish concerns.) Whether he helped himself among AIPAC high-rollers was not clear; but there were unlikely to be many complaints.
Trump’s appearance did not appear to produce much of an anti-Trump walk-out; no boos, and no cat-calls. In fact his speech, except for a few asides and apparent ad-libs was a solid pro-Israel speech. Trump particularly attacked not only Obama but Hillary as well and directly. As the likely Republican nominee, Trump was clearly trying to test out how far he can push blaming Hillary for Obama’s Middle East policy and thus break away a significant portion of traditional, Jewish Democratic voters in November. As were all the presentations at the conference, his speech was well written with a pertinent, demonstrative bit of specific Jewish religious content.
The Cruz speech was not surprising. It was strongly argued and filled with considerable pride in his commitment and activities on behalf of Israel. Unlike many of his usual presentations, it was divorced of mention of any Christian references. Cruz had a few last minute ad-libs which indicated that he or his staff had listened very attentively to Trump and wanted to counter or amend what had been said. In this crowd, there were some serious Cruz financial supporters, some of whom had no doubt participated in a major Cruz fund-raiser held in the afternoon by some of his supporters in the Jewish community.