If the 2012 election cycle is any kind of indicator, Sheldon Adelson, one of the Republican Party’s top donors, will likely end up backing multiple candidates by the time the dust settles on the 2016 presidential race.
There is certainly no shortage of candidates to choose from in 2016, but two have been vocal in their opposition to regulated online gambling, an issue at the top of Adelson’s list: former New York Governor George Pataki and South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham.
Pataki’s Adelson ties
Pataki the lobbyist recently served as a co-chair of Adelson’s Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling (CSIG) campaign, which seems to be Adelson’s #2 issue behind Israel. Fighting against marijuana legalization is #2a for Adelson.
Pataki appears to have left CSIG in early 2015, right around the time he began mulling a presidential run.
Graham’s Adelson ties
Graham and Adelson have a fairly new relationship dating back to about 2013, when the billionaire republican donor started hosting fundraisers for Graham and donating to his campaigns.
Soon after the campaign contributions and fundraisers began, Graham introduced Sheldon Adelson’s RAWA bill into the U.S. Senate in early 2014, and has indicated he would reintroduce the measure in 2015 – something he has yet to follow through on.
Graham also saw fit to question Attorney General Loretta Lynch on the Wire Act and online gambling during her confirmation hearings.
Pataki could be a viable general election candidate…
… if it wasn’t for his pitifully slight chances of getting to the general election.
In order to do so he would need to boost his national brand, and somehow survive the very conservative leaning and densely populated Republican primary.
Pataki bucks the Republican party on a number of social issues that have tripped up Republicans as of late, and was a fairly popular Republican Governor in the very blue state of New York. Pataki also carries very little personal/professional baggage.
The problem is he’s basically unknown on the national stage (Pataki’s run as New York Governor ended in 2006) and seen as far too liberal to win primaries in deeply conservative states.
Adelson money could help Pataki solve the first issue ($50 million buys a lot of TV time and name recognition), but no amount of money is going to sway the voters of South Carolina to vote for a Republican who supports gay rights and is pro-choice.
It should be noted, Adelson is generally liberal on social questions, but these don’t seem to be top tier issues for him.
Pataki seems tailor made for Adelson (a former democrat), but he’s an ill-fitting off-the-rack suit for republican primary voters.
Graham isn’t much of a candidate, but…
… that’s never stopped Adelson from pumping money into a campaign in the past.
Graham is also ideologically aligned with Adelson on several of his top issues, as he not only shares Adelson’s views on online gambling, he’s also a staunch supporter of Israel, and against marijuana legalization.
The big issue with Lindsey Graham is it’s a tossup as to who dislikes him more, Democrats or staunch conservative Republicans.
As one right-leaning outlet put it when discussing a Graham presidential run:
“… considering Graham’s … less than sterling conservative credentials… he will quickly find himself “shredded” by social conservative attack ads over his views which are pretty much in alignment with those of establishment Democrats.”
Graham’s campaign seems doomed from the start. Adelson may pass on backing Lindsey Graham, a third-tier candidate who may not even be invited to the primary debates.
So who will it be?
If Adelson is going to put his considerable weight behind one of these men it will likely be George Pataki.
George Pataki’s flaws can be fixed with a few tubes of caulk and some new paint whereas Lindsey Graham is a complete gut job.
Even Adelson can spot a money pit when he sees one … although he did back this guy to the tune of an estimated $50 million: