Jewish Republicans Dragged Into GOP Battle Between Tea Party and Moderates

Establishment Image Frays as Some Push Right-Wing Gospel

GOP Civil War: Ari Fleischer, a onetime spokesman for George W. Bush, is pushing the Republican Party to take more moderate positions. Others say grassroots GOP Jews sympathize more with Tea Party conservatism.
GOP Civil War: Ari Fleischer, a onetime spokesman for George W. Bush, is pushing the Republican Party to take more moderate positions. Others say grassroots GOP Jews sympathize more with Tea Party conservatism.

By Nathan Guttman

Published April 08, 2013, issue of April 12, 2013.
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Fleischer also cited Romney’s idea of “self-deportation” of undocumented immigrants. “The Autopsy,” which Fleisher co-wrote with four other activists, champions “comprehensive immigration reform” as key to winning support among Latinos.

Other Jewish Republicans are working to have their say on the state level.

Bobbie Kilberg, a lifelong Republican operative who worked in the George H.W. Bush White House and served in other Republican administrations, going back to Richard Nixon, is among those leading the fight in her home state of Virginia. During the recent presidential campaign, Kilberg was a co-chair of Romney’s finance committee, a title reserved for heavy donors and top fundraisers. But last February, during a closed-door meeting of party donors, Kilberg led the charge against her state’s leading Republican contender for governor, Ken Cuccinelli.

According to reports, Kilberg slammed the candidate, who is backed by the Tea Party movement and is known to highlight his socially conservative viewpoint. She described him as the wrong choice for a “purple” state in which voters are looking for a mainstream message focused on jobs and the economy. Cuccinelli, currently Virginia’s attorney general, has strongly opposed expanding gay rights. He also questions the reality of human-caused global warming and backs Arizona’s strict anti-immigration laws.

The need for Republican moderates on such issues “is as true for the nation as it is for Virginia,” Kilberg told the Forward. The Republican activist and donor, who now serves as president and CEO of the Northern Virginia Technology Council, stressed she was expressing her personal views, and not those of her organization. Kilberg predicted in an interview with the Forward that the GOP gubernatorial primary in Virginia will offer “a clear indication of which philosophy is winning” in the party’s current ideological clash. She criticized CPAC, the annual gathering of the party’s conservative branch, for advocating a “narrow approach” that will not serve the party well.

Kilberg’s hopes, and those of other moderate Republicans, are now pinned on the RNC’s autopsy document. The 100-page report calls for a focus on winning over a larger share of minority group voters, such as African Americans and Latinos, who are widely credited with having secured Obama’s win.

The RNC report asserts that these voters have turned their backs on the Republican Party mainly because of its stridently conservative image. The paper also recommends a shorter primary process with fewer public debates, in response to the lengthy course the party went through last year. During that period, Romney was obliged to shift hard right in order to win over the GOP base, but then found it difficult to pivot credibly back toward the center to appeal to the general electorate.


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