Jewish Republicans have favorites but are still shopping

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strong>LAS VEGAS — Influential Jewish Republicans are still searching for a contender to back for their party's presidential nomination, but crowd favorites are beginning to emerge.

Both because it's early in the process and the field of candidates is so deep, politically active Jewish Republicans and top campaign financiers are hedging their bets as they consider whom they prefer to throw against presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton in 2016. But that doesn't mean there aren't a few early leaders in the race for their money, Rolodexes and the value they would add as political operatives who could forge connections inside and outside the Jewish community.

Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, who addressed the Republican Jewish Coalition on Saturday during the group's annual spring meeting at The Venetian hotel and casino, wowed the gathering and has quickly — and unexpectedly — established himself as a player for Jewish Republican support, particularly among the grassroots. Coalition members interested in learning more about the conservative insurgent's campaign mobbed Cruz advisor Nick Muzin, an orthodox Jew, who worked the ballroom after the senator departed.

But the coalition is an Establishment-oriented group. The board and other senior leaders, who include mega donors like Sheldon Adelson and Paul Singer, consist of veteran GOP insiders, including former ambassadors appointed by President George H.W. Bush and President George W. Bush. That's an advantage for former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who are in the lead for Jewish GOP money and other support at this early stage, followed closely by Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida.