Daily Kickoff: Rubio, Cruz hit Trump but vow to back him anyway | Kasich strategist responds to Rubio campaign | Interview with Dov Zakheim on Trump

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GOP DEBATE TAKEAWAYS: Do debate moments matter this cycle? Last night, Rick Perry might have survived going 0-3 on naming federal agencies… Trump has fared poorly in almost all the debates, yet it hasn’t seemed to matter much… Or maybe debates do matter, just not for Trump. And did Rubio have a Pawlenty moment, saying he would support a Trump nomination, losing the #NeverTrump hashtag in the process?… Will Trump have someone endorse him today to change the narrative?…

Exchange of the night: “CRUZ: Breathe, breathe, breathe. TRUMP: Lyin’ Ted. CRUZ: You can do it. You can breathe. I know it’s hard. I know it’s hard. But just… RUBIO: When they’re done with the yoga, can I answer a question? CRUZ: You cannot. (LAUGHTER) RUBIO: Unbelievable. CRUZ: I really hope that we don’t — we don’t see yoga on this stage. RUBIO: Well, he’s very flexible, so you never know. (APPLAUSE)” [YouTube]

Rubio’s Director of Jewish Outreach Martin Sweet emails… “Once again, Marco Rubio demonstrated that he is ready to lead on day one, and he possesses an unparalleled detailed understanding of the threats and opportunities facing our nation. He exposed the descendant of the 1840s Know Nothing party as not intellectually curious and unprepared to handle the threats of ISIS, the challenges of the chaos in Syria, and the seriousness of what it might mean to order our military to commit war crimes. The same false claims Trump made to sell his failed fake “university,”  he tried to use to con the American people once again. The yelling, interrupting, bravado, and delusion of Trump’s unbelievable refrain of “believe me,” ultimately won’t stand the test of the American voter. And, by the way, does anyone know what that was on Ted Cruz’s lip that bounced around and he then ate? Styrofoam or a little spittle?”

Kasich campaign strategist John Weaver, responding to our report yesterday of the Rubio conference call urging Kasich to drop out, tells us: “They couldn’t be bigger hypocrites. In the State of Vermont they sent a surrogate up there to specifically urge people to not vote for John Kasich, which cost us probably 1,000 votes – which would’ve been the difference of us beating Donald Trump. And last time I checked, us winning up there would’ve helped slow down Trump. Secondly, grow up. Grow up because this a campaign. This is not a campaign for class favorite. You have to go out there and earn your votes. And finally, I would say, they should be focused on winning Florida and not so much worrying about us. We are going to win Ohio. And from what I can tell, they are going to lose Florida, and this is going to give Mr. Sullivan plenty of time to pore over data for the next six months.”

At the debate, Trump disavows KKK, expresses disappointment in repeated requests to do so: “You have repeatedly disavowed him since then, but I’d like to go deeper than that. What are your views on the Klu Klux Klan, and white supremacists?” Chris Wallace asked Trump. “I totally disavow the Klu Klux Klan. I totally disavow David Duke. I’ve been doing it now for two weeks, you’re probably about the 18th person that’s asked me the question,” Trump replied. “It was very clear, that question was also talked about in the form of groups. Groups, I want to know which groups are you talking about? You have to tell me which groups? Ultimately, he got to the Klu Klux Klan, which obviously I’m going to disavow. And, by the way, if you look on my Twitter account, almost immediately after the program they were disavowed again. You know, it’s amazing. When I do something on Twitter, everybody picks it up, goes all over the place. But, when I did this one nobody ever picks it up.” [YouTube]

Heard on Morning Joe — Trump on Non-Disavowal of KKK: I Thought He Might’ve Been Talking About Jewish Charities — by Alex Griswold: ““The one question that was asked of me, I guess on CNN… he talked about groups of people,” Trump told MSNBC’s Mika Brzezinski Thursday morning. “And I don’t like to disavow groups if I don’t know who they are.” “You could have federation of Jewish philanthropies in ‘groups,’” Trump insisted. “I don’t know who the groups are. He’s talking about disavowing groups. That’s what I was referring to.” [Mediaite]

WEEKEND INTERVIEW — Dov Zakheim talks Trump with Jacob Kornbluh: “Dealing in national security or national relations is very different from cutting a real estate deal. Even a foreign real estate deal. That’s number one. Secondly, his rhetoric has outraged friends, and allies, and partners around the world. I’ve just come back from overseas travel. People are either outraged or making jokes about it which is not very good for the United States either. Our European allies are worried because he talks about the changing alliances. Our Middle-Eastern allies are worried because the Israelis hear him talking about a degree of even-handedness that they don’t like. Our Arab friends don’t like the fact that he wants to keep Muslims out of the country. Our Japanese and Korean friends are concerned about his opposition to free trade. Our Central American friends and Mexican friends are concerned about his, what clearly appears to be a racist attitude. Wherever you go in the world, people are upset.”

On Trump explaining non-disavowal of KKK because he thought Tapper meant Jewish charities: “That’s totally outrageous. It fits in with so many of the other things he’s said. The Klu Klux Klan is hardly a Jewish charity. No Jewish charity would call itself KKK.”

Will you vote for Hillary over Trump? “I don’t know whether I’ll vote for Hillary or whether I won’t vote at all but one thing I can guarantee, I can guarantee you I will not vote for Mr. Trump.”

HEARD YESTERDAY: Romney declares GOP war on Trump: “Trump’s bombast is already alarming our allies and fueling the enmity of our enemies. Insulting all Muslims will keep many of them from fully engaging with us in the urgent fight against ISIS. And for what purpose? Muslim terrorists would only have to lie about their religion to enter the country. What he said on “60 Minutes” about Syria and ISIS has to go down as the most ridiculous and dangerous idea of the campaign season: Let ISIS take out Assad, he said, and then we can pick up the remnants. Think about that: Let the most dangerous terror organization the world has ever known take over a country? This is recklessness in the extreme. Donald Trump tells us that he is very, very smart. I’m afraid that when it comes to foreign policy he is very, very not smart… His foreign policies would make America and the world less safe.” [TranscriptCSPAN]

“Welcome to the GOP civil war” by Glenn Thrush and Alex Isenstadt: “Next month, the Republican Jewish Coalition, a group of powerful GOP donors, will gather at the Venetian Hotel and Resort, which is owned by Republican benefactor and RJC board member Sheldon Adelson, for their annual spring meeting. Attendees are likely to vent their disgust with Trump, who has been slow to disavow support by white supremacist groups. And at the meeting, according to two sources familiar with its planning, the RJC is expected to take up a pressing question: whether to even support Trump if he’s the GOP nominee.” [Politico]

“J Street popping up in a role traditionally played by NJDC” by Daniel Schere: “When Republican Jewish Coalition executive director Matt Brooks takes the stage in Las Vegas next week to debate foreign affairs, his opponent will not be a heavyweight from the National Jewish Democratic Council, the RJC’s opposite number.” [JewishChronicle]

SPOTTED at CPAC by Washington Post’s Dave Weigel: A dance party featuring a man with a yarmulke holding up a Ted Cruz cutout [Video]

$2,500 — to become a co-host of CPAC’s Young Jewish Conservatives Shabbat Dinner. h/t Politico’s Ken Vogel [Twitter]

TOP TALKER: “Trump Goaded Bloomberg Into Planning a Presidential Campaign. Here’s Why He Probably Won’t Run” by Gabriel Sherman: “He’s told friends he does not want to challenge Clinton directly. “He doesn’t want to be Ralph Nader,” a close friend says… And so, according to his advisers, Bloomberg is leaning against a run, and may announce that decision soon, but by putting his name out there, he’s joined Joe Biden as a possible backup plan for center and center-left voters terrified by the prospect of a Trump presidency.” [NYMag]

**Good Friday Morning! Enjoying the Daily Kickoff? Please share us with your friends & tell them to sign up at [JI].  Have a tip, scoop, or op-ed? We’d love to hear from you. Anything from hard news and punditry to the lighter stuff, including event coverage, job transitions, or even special birthdays, is much appreciated. Email editor@jewishinsider.com**

BUSINESS BRIEFS: “New York’s Sidewalks, Unsung Moneymakers” [NYTimes] • “Casey Wasserman spoke with CNBC’s Julia Boorstin at Code/Media about how sports marketing and TV rights will be affected by changing trends in television distribution, consumption and advertising” [YouTube] • LongRead: “How Snapchat Built a Business By Confusing Olds” [Businessweek]

“Israel to launch one of the most advanced missile defense systems in the world, with U.S. help” by Ruth Eglash and William Booth: “When it is complete, Israel’s multibillion-dollar rocket and missile air defense system will be far superior to anything in the Middle East and will likely rival, and in some ways surpass, in speed and targeting, air defenses deployed by Europe and the United States, its developers say.” [WashPost]

Congressional Op-Eds: “The big lies of the fascistic ‘boycott Israel’ crew” by Jerrold Nadler:“I dearly hope that the pro-peace, pro-academic freedom student leaders of Invest in Peace at Columbia are successful in their efforts to defeat this divisive and wrong-headed effort to have the university support BDS.” [NYPost]

“Justice still lags for Nazi victims” — by Reps Grace Meng and Brendan Boyle: “In our districts and communities across the country, Holocaust survivors are dying without justice. Their pleas are going unanswered by foreign government bureaucrats. They are faced with silence and inaction.” [TheHill]

COMING SOON: Vice News documentary on ‘Europe’s Jewish Exodus’ — “In the wake of recent terror attacks in Europe — several of which targeted Jewish institutions — some politicians and religious leaders have predicted an exodus of Jewish people from the continent. In some ways, the numbers stack up. Last year, a record 8,000 Jews arrived in Israel from France — with another 15,000 coming from Eastern Europe. VICE News investigates these predictions of a mass Jewish migration — and the forces behind them.” [ViceNews]

“Tasting Roman history in the city’s Jewish Ghetto” by Elizabeth Warkentin: “Despite the gravity of this, and other stark reminders of the Holocaust here, Via Portico d’Ottavia, the Jewish quarter’s principal artery, is a lively thoroughfare today, stirring to life from a deep slumber one summer evening.”[Globe&Mail]

Yitz Applbaum on the Wine of the Week — filing from Hong Kong: “I have done Israeli wine tastings all over the world and have consistently received enthusiastic praise. Last night was an extraordinary night in which I did a wine tasting for a group of well known wine connoisseurs and collectors in Hong Hong, a group that included a famous Bordeaux wine buyer (who seemed most impressed of all). The wines, including quite a few bottles of cabernet and syrah were well received. However, the wine that stole the evening was a white wine, a Lueria 2014 Chardonnay. It was absolutely gorgeous and full of many surprises.”

“The Lueria Chardonnay is produced from 100% Chardonnay grapes grown in a vineyard on the western slopes of Mount Meron in the Upper Galilee. The wine is aged in French oak barrels for 4 to 6 months. When drinking this wine, the front of your palate is welcomed by a soft, fruity, slightly buttery flavor that is often present in wooded Chardonnays. By mid palate you start to sense a shift to a bit of an acidic Chardonnay, almost in the style of a Chablis. By the time you get to the long and stringent finish you are tasting lemons and almonds. It is almost as if you are drinking three different wines. We drank this wine with fish and cheese and at all times the wine stood up to the food. I would recommend drinking this wine cool to moderately cold, but even at room temperature you will get great joy out of your choice.” [LueriaWinery]

WEEKEND BIRTHDAYS: Eva Moskowitz, CEO of Success Academy Charter Schools, turns 52… UK music promoter, Harvey Goldsmith, turns 70… Former New York Times correspondent, President of the Council of Foreign Relations, and Pentagon and State Department official, Leslie H. Gelb, turns 79… Matt Dorf, president and founder of West End Strategy Team (h/t Playbook)… Israeli professional basketball player Gal Mekel turns 28… Professor, composer and conductor, Samuel Adler, turns 88… ABC News broadcast journalist, Lynn Sherr, turns 74… Evan Presser… Aliza Tendler… Jerusalem city councilman Hanan Rubin… Israeli fashion model Esti Ginzburg turns 26… Tova Suissa… Mona Fishbane…

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