If Donald Trump picks up steam as the Republican front-runner coming out of Super Tuesday, Republican Jews will be wondering if they can cast their ballots for a businessman-celebrity whose no-holds-barred rhetoric has put many on edge.
Yet, despite the misgivings people have about Trump, he has at least this going for him in the eyes of many Republicans: He’s not Democrat Hillary Clinton.
For now, GOP voters like Deborah Bodlander are clinging to their preferred candidates.
Bodlander, a resident of Alexandria, Va., said she supports Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) as the Republican nominee for president because of what she says is his strong approach to foreign affairs and national security.
“I trust that our alliance and our support for Israel with a President Rubio would not wane in the least,” she said. “I think he would be extremely supportive of Israel’s right to exist and be peaceful within its borders.”
Bodlander, a member of Virginia’s 8th District Republican Committee, believes Trump is leading in the polls only because of his anti-establishment persona. Yet, she thinks his skills as a businessman could be effective in dealing with a gridlocked Congress.
“Because he is a businessman who is used to negotiating his deals, he would be able to negotiate on Capitol Hill and would be open to suggestions,” she said.
Bodlander plans to support Trump if he is the nominee, believing that even without foreign policy experience, any Republican candidate would be better than Hillary Clinton, who she feels has “finagled” her way into powerful positions with the influence of her husband, former president Bill Clinton.
Trump’s offensive remarks about women, Muslims, Hispanics, Jews and the disabled have given many Republican voters cause for concern about the party losing key demographic groups it will need to win in November.
But Baltimore County Republican Central Committee chair Al Mendelsohn said he is willing to give Trump the benefit of the doubt for his statements.
“When I watch somebody, I think, ‘I could have given a better answer than that,’ but I’m not on the stage,” he said. “I am at times embarrassed when people say things off the cuff. I felt the same way when the rabbi at my shul supported the Iran nuclear deal. But I didn’t hold anybody to the standard of perfection.”
Mendelsohn has been a Republican since his father voted for Richard Nixon in 1972. He plans to support whoever the Republican nominee is and thinks all of the candidates have skills.
“We’ve got a world-renowned surgeon [Ben Carson], we’ve got two senators who’ve got great accomplishments under their belt, we’ve got a real estate developer who’s employed tens of thousands of people,” he said. “So I’ve got nothing but good things to say about all of these people.”
Mendelsohn added that he thinks Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, a convert to Judaism, could win a few Jews’ hearts and votes.
On the other hand, Mendelsohn said Clinton’s skills would not be beneficial to her, and he compared her to the man considered the worst president ever.
“Her experience brought us Benghazi,” where four Americans died in a 2012 terrorist attack, “brought us the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, brought us the turmoil in Syria. I really can’t find proof that her experience would be a good thing,” he said, noting that James Buchanan — who occupied the White House in the lead up to the Civil War — was a disaster despite having served as a congressman and secretary of state.
Even independent voter Gary Earlbaum said Clinton’s handling of the Benghazi attack is a bigger Achilles’ heel than having a limited amount of foreign policy experience. But that’s just for starters.
“I think that Hillary has promised to continue the policies of Barack Obama, does not have a good record on Israel and is a totally untrustworthy human being,” he said.
Earlbaum, president of Greentree Properties in Philadelphia, said he has supported members of both parties in the past, but will support Trump — reluctantly — if he is the nominee.
Trump’s “demeanor, lack of knowledge and lack of civility would dictate that the Republican Party would be better off with another nominee,” he said.
A wild card in the election could be former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who said last month that he was considering entering the race as an independent. A Bloomberg candidacy would be a relief should Trump receive the Republican nomination, said Michael Granoff, a disgruntled Democrat who has worked on the presidential campaigns of Bill Clinton, Joe Lieberman and Jeb Bush.
“I am now supporting Rubio, but if Trump is the GOP nominee, it would be a moral imperative that an independent candidate run,” he said.
Granoff, a New Jersey native living in Israel, said he cringes at the possibility of Trump receiving support within the Jewish community: “Those who follow a tradition once condensed as, ‘Don’t do unto others what you would not have them do unto you,’ cannot support a purported leader who mocks, denigrates and otherwise demeans not just political opponents, but war heroes, immigrants and the disabled.”
Daniel Schere writes for Mid-Atlantic Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.