GOP presidential candidates court Jewish mega-donors
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Republican presidential candidates will ring in the Hanukkah season by wooing major Jewish leaders and donors during a Thursday campaign forum in Washington.

Fourteen Republican candidates will take to the stage at the aptly named Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center during the daylong event hosted by the Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC).

Republican Jewish power players fill the group’s board of directors, with names including mega-donors Sheldon Adelson and Paul Singer, as well as Republican National Committee Finance Chairman Lewis Eisenberg, former Bush White House press secretary Ari Fleischer and former Bush campaign manager Ken Mehlman.


Support from Adelson is considered one of the hottest tickets for any GOP presidential candidate. He served as a patron to the campaigns of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) and eventual nominee Mitt Romney in 2012, and is expected to back one of the establishment 
candidates in 2016 — with reports saying he’s leaning toward Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioThe Memo: 'Whistleblower' furor gains steam Liberal super PAC launches browser extension replacing 'Mitch McConnell' with 'Moscow Mitch' Trump faces difficult balancing act with reelection campaign MORE (R-Fla.).

Singer, one of the top five donors of the 2012 cycle, endorsed Rubio late last month.

Making the case to the potential donors — as well as Jewish activists who can act as surrogates around the country — could help candidates break out from the large field, as the event comes at a heightened point for American-Israeli relations.

Concerns over Israeli security have mounted amid a rash of stabbings by Palestinians in response to their treatment, less than a year and a half after the decades-long conflict boiled over.

And the GOP candidates resoundingly criticized the Obama administration’s nuclear deal with Iran, warning that it would jeopardize Israel’s national security by putting Iran on the path toward a nuclear bomb and provide them with more money to finance terrorist groups that have targeted the Jewish nation.

It was with that backdrop that RJC Chairman Matthew Brooks told The Hill in October that the GOP was America’s only pro-Israel party.

“A lot of people believe what I’m going to say, and unfortunately no one has had the courage to say it,” Brooks said.

“We as a Jewish community have to take a long, hard step back and acknowledge the reality … that today there is one pro-Israel party and that is the Republican Party.”

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), the Democratic National Committee’s chairwoman, pushed back on that characterization on a Wednesday call with reporters pegged to the event, cutting down the forum as the “Adelson primary” where candidates are competing “for access to his millions.”

“On issue after issue, Republicans have been deeply and dramatically out of touch with the Jewish community,” Wasserman Schultz added.

A release announcing the DNC call noted a 2014 Pew Research Center survey that found Democrats with a 30 percentage point lead with Jews over the GOP.