When Republican mega donor Sheldon Adelson dropped $5 million on the super PAC supporting Newt Gingrich’s presidential campaign in January 2012, media outlets considered the donation a saving grace. While Adelson eventually switched his allegiance to eventual nominee Mitt Romney, his donations kept Gingrich’s campaign afloat much longer than it otherwise would have been able to afford and caused a bruising fight for Romney early in the primary, despite his front-runner status.
This time around, with a much wider field and no clear favorite contender, a growing number of Republican presidential candidates have been eagerly vying for Adelson's blessing -- and his money. But reports in recent weeks indicate that Florida Sen. Marco Rubio has been growing closer to Adelson and is likely to get his support in the near future, perhaps even by the end of this month. This could mean a huge influx of cash for Rubio, who has been struggling to build his campaign war chest after rising in popularity thanks to his strong performances in the Republican debates. For Adelson, a Las Vegas casino magnate with a penchant for politics, it could also be a long-awaited chance to influence a presidential contest.
“Back in 2012, the competition that Romney faced was actually stronger than what Hillary [Clinton] faces right now,” said Ford O’Connell, a Republican strategist who worked on John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign. “This time you have four or five people who could actually win. They’re looking around and saying who best represents the issues we care about, but also who can actually win,” O’Connell added of Adelson’s staff.
However, while the topics of Israel, Iran and trade have all come up during the 2016 presidential election, Rubio will not be stretching his own ideas if he agrees with most views held by Adelson. “Marco Rubio’s way into the nomination was always foreign policy, specifically on Israel,” and now also on economic growth, O’Connell said.