Speaking in Las Vegas, President Donald Trump predicted that in 2020, “Republicans are going to win the White House. We’re going to retake the House. We’re going to keep the Senate.”
In a one-hour speech delivered before the Republican Jewish Coalition annual leadership meeting at The Venetian, Trump also told the crowd of some 2,000 that he sees a GOP that is “stronger than we’ve ever been before.”
The event offered a glimpse of how the 2020 presidential campaign could unfold. While the speech was billed as a talk for RJC leaders, the occasional sign billed it as a “rally.”
With Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the USA” blaring, Trump courted Jewish voters, but also strayed to other pet subjects — border security, auto tariffs and his “very good relationship with” North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
There were shades of 2016 as well. Shortly after Trump greeted the crowd with the Hebrew greeting “Shabbat shalom,” a handful of protesters stood up and chanted, “Jews are here to stay. Occupation is a plague.”
Participants countered with chants of “USA! USA! USA!” as security officials escorted the other individuals out.
“It was rude what they did, but I believe that everybody should be treated with respect,” responded Halie Soifer, executive director of the Jewish Democratic Council of America.
In a tweet, Soifer had cataloged “a lot of those Trump attacked: ALL Democrats, the media, members of Congress, President Obama, and those exercising their first amendment rights. Shabbat Shalom to you too.”
In the front row sat Trump’s “good friends,” Sheldon and Dr. Miriam Adelson, the largest donors to Trump’s 2016 campaign.
“Last year,” Trump recalled, “it was my honor to award Miriam the Presidential Medal of Freedom.” The Israeli-born Adelson is a physician who specializes in the treatment of narcotics addiction.
The RJC frequently hails Trump as “the most pro-Israel president ever.”
Unlike Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, Trump kept his campaign pledge to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem.
Last month, Trump recognized Israel’s sovereignty over the contested Golan Heights, which Israel captured from Syria in 1967, and the State Department switched from calling the territory “Israeli-occupied” to “Israeli controlled.”
“Nobody was questioning Israeli control over the Golan, so we don’t necessarily disagree with the outcome, but we do question the timing,” close as it is to Tuesday’s Israeli election, said Soifer, who described the move as “a political calculation.”
Longtime pollster Mark Mellman found “substantial antipathy” toward Trump in research he did in October for the Jewish Electorate Institute.
But that research was done before the midterm election sent a group of young progressives to the Capitol, most notably Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., who tweeted that support for Israel was “all about the Benjamins” and derided supporters of Israel for having an “allegiance to a foreign country.” Democrats were ready to censure her in a resolution, but they pulled back from calling out Omar by name.
Later the liberal group MoveOn.org called on Democratic presidential hopefuls to boycott a Washington meeting of the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee, because AIPAC employs “anti-Muslim and anti-Arab rhetoric.”
For various reasons, no Democratic hopeful spoke before AIPAC. A spokesman for Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders called out AIPAC for providing a platform “for leaders who have expressed bigotry and oppose a two-state solution.”
Trump garnered 24 percent of the Jewish vote in 2016, according to exit polling, but he only needs to pump up that percentage by a few points for the effort to pay off in key states like Florida, which president Scott Newmark of Americans for Trump Broward called “ground zero” for the effort.
Sheldon Adelson told the Review-Journal he found Trump’s speech “very inspiring.”
Coco Shelburne of Summerlin said that she didn’t vote for Trump in 2016, but soon after, she said she “realized my mistake.”
Speaking later Saturday, Vice President Mike Pence defended Trump’s declaration of a national emergency at the border and told the audience that it is clear after special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe, “there was no collusion.” Pence’s remarks were frequently greeted with chants of “four more years.”
The Review-Journal is owned by the family of Las Vegas Sands Corp. Chairman and CEO Sheldon Adelson. Las Vegas Sands operates The Venetian and Palazzo. Adelson is on the board of directors of the Republican Jewish Coalition.