Casino magnate Sheldon Adelson is ready to buy himself a president, and he has the billions to do it. NY Magazine's Jason Zengerle takes a look at the man who would purchase 2016 despite Donald Trump in the race wrecking his plans.
In the 2016 presidential race, Adelson insists he will not repeat the mistake he made in 2012 of backing a spoiler. “I think he feels guilty,” says one person who has discussed the matter with him. “I think he knows how much he fucked up.” Adelson has told several associates that he will likely not decide on a candidate until he’s had an opportunity to watch a few debates. Jeffrey Wiesenfeld, an Israel advocate who’s friendly with Adelson, says the mogul’s priority this time is to support a candidate who’s electable: “He’ll match his emotionalism on this issue with some hard data. His principles and his desires remain the same, but I think he’s going to balance those with an empirically based judgment on the reality of the marketplace.”
Of course, thanks to Donald Trump, the Republican marketplace is a flaming mess at the moment. The challenge Adelson now faces is determining which candidate stands the best chance of defeating not onlyHillary Clinton but also the man whose Las Vegas hotel is just a few clicks down Mel Tormé Way from the Venetian. While Trump boasts that his daughter converted to Judaism and blasts Obama as “the worst enemy of Israel,” his knowledge of the Middle East is sufficiently shallow that Adelson apparently believes Trump wouldn’t be an effective ally of the Jewish state.
But Adelson is also said to be conflicted about the various potential Trump-slayers. Scott Walker, despite intensive lobbying efforts, is viewed by many close to Adelson as insufficiently serious about Israel and foreign policy. (“Look, he’s the governor of Wisconsin,” says Morton Klein, the president of the Adelson-backed Zionist Organization of America. “He knows about cheese and cutting pensions.”) Rubio is a personal favorite but might lack the necessary ruthlessness to take out The Donald. Ted Cruz, meanwhile, is well positioned to appeal to the same GOP primary voters Trump’s currently energizing, but he is probably too conservative to beat Hillary.
Which brings Adelson to Jeb Bush, the candidate who seemingly has the best chance of slaying both Trump and Clinton but whose relationship with the mogul is as vexed as any of the Republican contenders. If Adelson really feels that backing Gingrich over Romney was a mistake in 2012, backing Jeb this time around would be a kind of atonement. But, frustratingly for Adelson, the heir apparent to the Bush dynasty has not always been so eager to play along.
If there was a big loser in 2012, it was Adelson, who spent a $100 million on Newt Gingrich only to see him crash and burn well before the primaries even started. He's backing Jebby this time.
Who is at five percent.
Just because you're rich, doesn't make you very bright, I guess.