Billionaire Sheldon Adelson thinks he’s learned something from the 2012 GOP primary.
His sudden cash infusion into a Newt Gingrich SuperPAC in late 2011 helped finance the King of Bain “documentary” that made Mitt Romney’s private equity background an issue — in a Republican primary. This assault on the way Bain did business not only propelled Gingrich to a win in South Carolina, extending the primary, it provided Democrats the predicate to make an argument that Romney’s callous attitude — perfectly exemplified by his “47 percent” confession — was proof that the GOP nominee would actually gut the safety net while cutting taxes on the rich, as Paul Ryan’s budget promised.
Essentially, Adelson spent millions to help re-elect a Democrat.
The casino mogul says he wants to actually try to elect a Republican in 2016, and he has a plan. “He doesn’t want a crazy extremist to be the nominee,” Adelson associate Victor Chaltiel told The Washington Post. “He wants someone who has the chance to win the election, who is reasonable in his positions, who has convictions but is not totally crazy.”
“Not totally crazy” is the low bar set for the GOP presidential nomination, and who will decide on it? Sheldon Adelson, a man who said that negotiations with Iran should begin with the United States dropping a nuke on the Persian country.
But he wants to do it in the middle of a desert, so only the nuclear fallout kills people. See, that’s crazy. But “not totally crazy.”
Okay, it is totally crazy… if you aren’t a billionaire who has proven you will donate $93 million to Republican campaigns in one year. If you are that billionaire, you’ll be guaranteed an audience with nearly all the Republican Party’s presidential frontrunners.
“Not totally crazy” Republicans Jeb Bush, Governors Chris Christie (R-NJ), Scott Walker (R-WI) and John Kasich (R-OH) all visited Adelson at his prime spot in Las Vegas, the Venetian, this week for the “Sheldon Primary.”
“There’s going to be a lot more scrutiny,” Andy Abboud, Adelson’s top political advisor, said.
Not only will these candidates have to prove their not total sanity and willingness to go to war with Iran, they’ll likely have to stake their ground on crucial issues for the future of this nation, like online gambling, which Adelson hates — unless he’s profiting from it.
The timing of the Sheldon Primary is extremely convenient for Christie, who is in the process of exonerating himself after a scandal hit just as he was besting Hillary Clinton in 2016 polls. Now he’s trailing the former Secretary of State by double digits and is solidly in the middle of the GOP pack. But he hasn’t lost the support of his key billionaire supporter, Ken Langone — the Home Depot co-founder who has threatened to cut off the pope for talking about inequality and recently made at least one terrible Nazi analogy… that we know of.
So Christie is still a contender. But he’s now apparently trailing Jeb Bush in the “not totally crazy” category. The brother of the worst president of the last century now seems to be seriously considering a run for the presidency, which will conveniently begin right about the time the wars and financial crises his brother left the country with are finally mopped up.
You’ve probably noticed who isn’t on the “not totally crazy” list: Senators Rand Paul (R-KY), Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Marco Rubio (R-FL).
Ironically, Rand Paul is on Adelson’s “totally crazy” list for the senator’s singular sane stand.
Adelson would love Paul’s plot to gut Social Security and Medicare while lowering taxes on billionaires with a flat tax that would starve the government. The billionaire wouldn’t mind the Tea Partier’s desire to ban abortion and some forms of birth control.
The dealbreaker is Paul’s willingness to negotiate with Iran — without nuking it first.
But the senator has inherited a solid campaign infrastructure from his father’s two presidential runs and announced on Thursday that he’s launched a 50-state effort to be taken seriously by the party’s other billionaires, despite Adelson’s snub.
Ted Cruz’s willingness to blow up the economy to get his way apparently isn’t very appealing to the guys who own huge chunks of it. And Marco Rubio’s transformation into Diet Ted Cruz, following his attempt to help the GOP win in 2016 with immigration reform, didn’t garner him an invitation.
That 2012 GOP primary runner-up Rick Santorum also wasn’t on Adelson’s guest list points to what an unusual vacuum there is in the Republican presidential primary, where the number-two finisher in the last contested primary typically ends up as the frontrunner to be the next nominee. But there is no frontrunner now, which means Santorum is a serious contender — as long as Mike Huckabee doesn’t run and the former senator still has the support of his patron billionaire, Foster Friess.
Of course, both major parties rely on support from the richest .01 percent, who use their enormous wealth to weigh in on elections in a environment that money unleashed by Citizens United is continually reshaping our politics. But the billionaires on the right are fighting like their tax breaks and their ability to pollute without consequence depend upon it. Because they do.
In 2014, the Koch brothers’ network is outspending Democratic groups 10-1. That, along with low turnout, may allow the GOP to keep and expand their House majority and possibly take the Senate — even though their unwillingness to help the long-term unemployed or raise the minimum wage runs contrary to the desires of most Americans.
Because if the billionaires are on your side, who else do you need?
Photo: East Coast Gambler via Flickr