Billionaire Sheldon Adelson Assesses the 2016 Field

The GOP donor rattles off his list of contenders and says he’ll be more involved in Senate primaries to promote “electable” candidates.

FILE - In this April 12, 2012 file photo, Las Vegas Sands Chairman and CEO Sheldon Adelson speaks at a news conference for the Sands Cotai Central in Macau. Adelson is firing back at his former Macau casino executive's claim that Adelson approved prostitution at company properties in the Chinese gambling enclave.   
National Journal
Shane Goldmacher
Sept. 12, 2013, 4:47 a.m.

Shel­don Ad­el­son, the bil­lion­aire Re­pub­lic­an whose su­per PAC spend­ing upen­ded the 2012 GOP pres­id­en­tial primary, has a list of early con­tenders in 2016—and Sen. Rand Paul of Ken­tucky isn’t on it.

Al­though he said “it’s far too early” to spec­u­late about the next pres­id­en­tial field, Ad­el­son rattled off the names of Sen. Marco Ru­bio, R-Fla.; Rep. Paul Ry­an, R-Wis., the 2012 vice pres­id­en­tial nom­in­ee; New Jer­sey Gov. Chris Christie; and Wis­con­sin Gov. Scott Walk­er as pre­sumed can­did­ates.

“I didn’t even know Ted Cruz was po­ten­tially a can­did­ate un­til some­body poin­ted it out to me the oth­er day,” Ad­el­son said of the fresh­man sen­at­or from Texas.

Ad­el­son’s early 2016 as­sess­ment came in an ex­tens­ive in­ter­view with Na­tion­al Journ­al earli­er this week in which he also said he is con­sid­er­ing an ex­pan­ded in­volve­ment in Sen­ate Re­pub­lic­an primar­ies after watch­ing flawed GOP nom­in­ees frit­ter away win­nable seats in the last two cycles.

“We are go­ing to be in­volved in more primary races than we were be­fore,” he said.

Ad­el­son’s words carry the weight of his wal­let. The casino mag­nate—he is the chair­man and CEO of the Las Ve­gas Sands Corp.—is one of the biggest donors in Re­pub­lic­an polit­ics, hav­ing spent with his wife nearly $100 mil­lion on the 2012 elec­tions. For­bes es­tim­ates Ad­el­son is the 15th richest per­son in the world, worth $26.5 bil­lion.

It’s not en­tirely sur­pris­ing that Ad­el­son would leave Paul’s name off his early 2016 list. Paul is a lead­ing liber­tari­an voice in the GOP who ar­gues for the wean­ing away of for­eign aid, in­clud­ing even­tu­ally to Is­rael, and has been at the fore­front of op­pos­ing in­ter­ven­tion in Syr­ia.

Ad­el­son is a pro-Is­rael hawk who was named an hon­or­ary cit­izen of Jer­u­s­alem earli­er this year and is back­ing Pres­id­ent Obama’s pro­posed strikes against the re­gime of Bashar al-As­sad for its sus­pec­ted use of chem­ic­al weapons. Still, Ad­el­son said the Syr­ia situ­ation is not a lit­mus test for 2016. “I don’t think it makes a hill of beans dif­fer­ence,” he said. “It’s not a make-or-break is­sue for me. Peri­od.” All the mem­bers of Con­gress seen as most likely 2016 as­pir­ants—Paul, Cruz, Ru­bio and Ry­an—have come out in op­pos­i­tion to Obama strik­ing Syr­ia.

Ad­el­son had only kind words for most of the po­ten­tial con­tenders. “Every­body’s im­pressed me,” he said. “Ru­bio is a very im­press­ive guy. I’ve talked to him privately many times, and he’s ex­tremely know­ledge­able. I’ve dis­cussed a lot of eso­ter­ic is­sues with him and he’s right up there.”

“The same thing, I had lunch with Chris Christie one day, he and his wife Mary Pat, and he’s a very im­press­ive guy,” Ad­el­son con­tin­ued. “The same thing with Ry­an—every­body’s im­press­ive.”

Top Re­pub­lic­ans make ef­forts to stay in Ad­el­son’s good graces—and for good reas­on. Last year, he handed out $30 mil­lion to a su­per PAC back­ing Mitt Rom­ney; $23 mil­lion to Amer­ic­an Cross­roads, the Karl Rove-af­fil­i­ated su­per PAC; and $5 mil­lion apiece to the su­per PACs formed by al­lies of Speak­er John Boehner and House Ma­jor­ity Lead­er Eric Can­tor, ac­cord­ing to the Cen­ter for Re­spons­ive Polit­ics.

All that money is why, only four days after Rom­ney tapped Ry­an as his vice pres­id­en­tial pick last year, Ry­an flew out to Las Ve­gas for a gath­er­ing hos­ted by Ad­el­son at the Vene­tian hotel.

This Au­gust, Ad­el­son hos­ted a fun­draiser for Christie at the Palazzo. The event came two years after Christie, whose state is home to At­lantic City, the No. 2 gambling mecca in the coun­try, dis­paraged people who go to Las Ve­gas in the sum­mer. “You’d have to be stu­pid to do that,” he said then. An Ad­el­son-hos­ted event was enough to change his mind.

Bey­ond his dona­tions, Ad­el­son has had some un­wel­come re­cent in­ter­ac­tions with the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment. His com­pany agreed to pay $47 mil­lion last month to settle a money-laun­der­ing probe. And a second fed­er­al in­vest­ig­a­tion in­to the pos­sible brib­ing of for­eign of­fi­cials with busi­ness in China is on­go­ing.

With the 2016 elec­tion still more than three years away, Ad­el­son said he’s look­ing for lead­er­ship qual­it­ies in po­ten­tial con­tenders. “When some­body is a be­liev­er in their own con­vic­tions, that’s the kind of guy that I’m for,” he said, cit­ing Pres­id­ent Re­agan’s famed stan­doff with air-traffic con­trol­lers. “When Re­agan dumped the flight con­trol­lers, there was no ques­tion he wasn’t go­ing to take them back.”

“So it isn’t just, ‘I can de­bate good, I’m very ar­tic­u­late, I can sell my point of view,’ ” Ad­el­son said. He’s look­ing for a lead­er who won’t “swing with the wind of the polls.”

In Sen­ate races, the Nevada Re­pub­lic­an said he wants to push for more-elect­able nom­in­ees, a big point of con­ten­tion between the party es­tab­lish­ment and tea-party act­iv­ists.

“Look what happened here in Nevada. [In 2010,] Shar­ron Angle came in in the primary race against Sue Lowden who was a shoo-in for U.S. sen­at­or,” he said. “We were not in­volved in that race in the man­ner that we should have. But listen, she was un­elect­able. [Todd] Akin in “¦Mis­souri was un­elect­able. [Richard] Mour­dock was un­elect­able in In­di­ana.”

Angle, Akin, and Mour­dock were all Re­pub­lic­an Sen­ate nom­in­ees who bested GOP es­tab­lish­ment can­did­ates in the primary, only to lose to a Demo­crat in the gen­er­al elec­tion.

“I think we’ve got to take, in our polit­ic­al cal­cu­la­tions—we’ve got to take a closer look at who is more elect­able, rather than listen to the nor­mal pitches of, ‘Geez I’m just 3 points away; if only I had a bil­lion dol­lars I could close that gap,’” Ad­el­son said.

Ad­el­son wouldn’t de­tail his plans for the 2014 primar­ies. “I tell you the truth, I don’t know. It’s just much too early,” he said, adding he hadn’t “giv­en it any thought,” though clearly he had.

Ad­el­son, who turned 80 earli­er this year, did have one brief Rick Perry “oops” mo­ment in the 30-minute in­ter­view. In ex­plain­ing his sup­port for Obama in en­for­cing a “red line” in Syr­ia, Ad­el­son said, “There are three things in Chinese lore that can’t be re­trac­ted. One is the spoken word, two is the spent ar­row, and three—I’m at the age that I’ve for­got,” he said.

Not that he soun­ded like a man in­tend­ing to slow down. “Eighty is the new 60,” he said, “so I cel­eb­rated my 60th when I was 60 and I cel­eb­rated my 60th again when I’m 80.”

{{ BIZOBJ (video: 4435) }}

What We're Following See More »
TAKING A LONG VIEW TO SOUTHERN STATES
In Dropout Speech, Santorum Endorses Rubio
2 days ago
THE DETAILS

As expected after earlier reports on Wednesday, Rick Santorum ended his presidential bid. But less expected: he threw his support to Marco Rubio. After noting he spoke with Rubio the day before for an hour, he said, “Someone who has a real understanding of the threat of ISIS, real understanding of the threat of fundamentalist Islam, and has experience, one of the things I wanted was someone who has experience in this area, and that’s why we decided to support Marco Rubio.” It doesn’t figure to help Rubio much in New Hampshire, but the Santorum nod could pay dividends down the road in southern states.

Source:
‘PITTING PEOPLE AGAINST EACH OTHER’
Rubio, Trump Question Obama’s Mosque Visit
2 days ago
WHY WE CARE

President Obama’s decision to visit a mosque in Baltimore today was never going to be completely uncontroversial. And Donald Trump and Marco Rubio proved it. “Maybe he feels comfortable there,” Trump told interviewer Greta van Susteren on Fox News. “There are a lot of places he can go, and he chose a mosque.” And in New Hampshire, Rubio said of Obama, “Always pitting people against each other. Always. Look at today – he gave a speech at a mosque. Oh, you know, basically implying that America is discriminating against Muslims.”

Source:
THE TIME IS NOW, TED
Cruz Must Max Out on Evangelical Support through Early March
2 days ago
WHY WE CARE

For Ted Cruz, a strong showing in New Hampshire would be nice, but not necessary. That’s because evangelical voters only make up 21% of the Granite State’s population. “But from the February 20 South Carolina primary through March 15, there are nine states (South Carolina, Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Kentucky, Mississippi, and North Carolina) with an estimated white-Evangelical percentage of the GOP electorate over 60 percent, and another four (Texas, Kansas, Louisiana, and Missouri) that come in over 50 percent.” But after that, he better be in the catbird’s seat, because only four smaller states remain with evangelical voter majorities.

Source:
CHRISTIE, BUSH TRYING TO TAKE HIM DOWN
Rubio Now Winning the ‘Endorsement Primary’
2 days ago
WHY WE CARE

Since his strong third-place finish in Iowa, Marco Rubio has won endorsement by two sitting senators and two congressmen, putting him in the lead for the first time of FiveThirtyEight‘s Endorsement Tracker. “Some politicians had put early support behind Jeb Bush — he had led [their] list since August — but since January the only new endorsement he has received was from former presidential candidate Sen. Lindsey Graham.” Meanwhile, the New York Times reports that fueled by resentment, “members of the Bush and Christie campaigns have communicated about their mutual desire to halt … Rubio’s rise in the polls.”

Source:
ARE YOU THE GATEKEEPER?
Sanders: Obama Is a Progressive
1 days ago
THE LATEST

“Do I think President Obama is a progressive? Yeah, I do,” said Bernie Sanders, in response to a direct question in tonight’s debate. “I think they’ve done a great job.” But Hillary Clinton wasn’t content to sit out the latest chapter in the great debate over the definition of progressivism. “In your definition, with you being the gatekeeper of progressivism, I don’t think anyone else fits that definition,” she told Sanders.

×