Marco Rubio looks to win the Sheldon Adelson primary
As GOP presidential candidates take the debate stage Tuesday at an extravagant Las Vegas hotel, they will once again compete for voters in an increasingly unpredictable race. But they are also vying for the attention of the man who owns the building — and no candidate has worked harder than Florida's Marco Rubio.
The U.S. senator has avidly courted casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, sitting down with him privately numerous times, including a dinner in Washington weeks before launching his campaign in April, and checking in regularly by phone to talk about Israel and the campaign.
In October, Rubio held a campaign meeting at Adelson's Venetian hotel, site of the debate.
And Rubio has consistently championed Israel in speeches on the Senate floor while also pushing legislation aimed at supporting the cause.
The "Sheldon Adelson primary" winner will land a prize worth tens of millions in financial support. Adelson, chairman and CEO of Las Vegas Sands Corp., gave $15 million to a super PAC supporting Newt Gingrich in 2012, helping unleash TV attack ads on Mitt Romney's business record. He then gave millions to support Romney.
All told, Adelson and his Israeli-born wife spent $93 million that cycle, the No. 1 individual donors, by far.
This time, Adelson, whose worth is valued at somewhere between $20 billion and $30 billion, reportedly wants to throw his weight behind a more electable candidate and he's prepared to spend even more. "I don't cry when I lose," he told the Wall Street Journal in 2012. "There's always a new hand coming up."
Rubio has benefitted from an outside group that has run TV ads featuring his hawkish foreign policy views, including a vow to tear up the Iran nuclear deal, which Adelson loathes. Rubio is also backing legislation Adelson is pushing to crush an expansion of online gambling, which threatens his global casino empire.
Much of Rubio's supposed favor has been conveyed by people who are close to Adelson, not Adelson himself, who rarely talks to the news media.
Among the mentioned attributes are Rubio's foreign policy outlook, his communication skill and appeal to a broad range of GOP voters. Recent polls show Rubio, 44, would be one of the strongest challengers to Democrat Hillary Clinton. Adelson also likes that Rubio is the son of immigrants.
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