Sheldon Adelson's Self-Defeating Meddling

Billionaire's Folly Helped Turn Nation Back to Barack Obama

Cash Cow: Sheldon Adelson’s expensive and self-defeating meddling handed the vote to President Obama. On the morning after Election Day, schadenfreude is a Yiddish word.
getty images
Cash Cow: Sheldon Adelson’s expensive and self-defeating meddling handed the vote to President Obama. On the morning after Election Day, schadenfreude is a Yiddish word.

By Samuel G. Freedman

Published November 07, 2012, issue of November 16, 2012.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

In late July, Sheldon Adelson pledged $6.5 million of his casino empire’s fortune, and potentially as much as $100 million, to a campaign by the Republican Jewish Coalition. It was aimed at peeling away Jewish voters from the incumbent Democratic president, Barack Obama, in potential swing states like Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. Just to underscore the point, the Adelson announcement came as the Republican candidate, Mitt Romney, was traveling to Israel to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, another one of the magnate’s favored politicians.

Well, we now know that Adelson emphatically succeeded in his goal of affecting the presidential election. The only thing is, he succeeded in re-electing Obama. In the broad sense, the national campaign saw the newly unlimited corporate and personal political spending by SuperPACs mostly harm Republicans by fueling a vicious primary race that bloodied up even its victor. In the very specific case of Adelson, his role as Newt Gingrich’s bankroller may well have cost Republicans the White House.

Admittedly, it is difficult if not impossible to prove a counter-factual. (Just ask President Obama, who had to persuade disappointed voters how much worse the economy would have been without his stimulus bill.) To comprehend how Adelson unintentionally assisted his enemy requires the leap of imagination — “What if?” — of an alt-history novel. Finally, the point here is not about a Jewish conspiracy in the person of Adelson. Rather, the point here is about hubris unhinged.

Just pause for a moment to consider what happened during the Republican primaries. Adelson and his wife Miriam poured an estimated $20 million into a SuperPAC that supported the quixotic campaign of Gingrich. Thrice married, a polarizing figure for 20 years, and a card wild enough to assail Romney about Bain Capital’s predatory style, Gingrich was never, ever going to win the Republican presidential nomination. What he did manage to do, however, once endowed with Adelson’s riches, was deny the nomination to the man who might well have defeated Obama: former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum.

Everything that Mitt Romey so flagrantly lacked, everything that he looked transparently artificial in trying to express, was what Santorum embodied naturally, in his family history, in his bones. He was a conservative Catholic whose consistent record against abortion and gay marriage genuinely energized the GOP’s evangelical Christian base. He was the product of immigrant parents, grew up in the steel and coal region of western Pennsylvania, and had built an organic constituency in the industrial heartland.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Is pot kosher for Passover. The rabbis say no, especially for Ashkenazi Jews. And it doesn't matter if its the unofficial Pot Day of April 20.
  • A Ukrainian rabbi says he thinks the leaflets ordering Jews in restive Donetsk to 'register' were a hoax. But the disturbing story still won't die.
  • Some snacks to help you get through the second half of Passover.
  • You wouldn't think that a Soviet-Jewish immigrant would find much in common with Gabriel Garcia Marquez. But the famed novelist once helped one man find his first love. http://jd.fo/f3JiS
  • Can you relate?
  • The Forverts' "Bintel Brief" advice column ran for more than 65 years. Now it's getting a second life — as a cartoon.
  • Half of this Hillel's members believe Jesus was the Messiah.
  • Vinyl isn't just for hipsters and hippies. Israeli photographer Eilan Paz documents the most astonishing record collections from around the world:http://jd.fo/g3IyM
  • Could Spider-Man be Jewish? Andrew Garfield thinks so.
  • Most tasteless video ever? A new video shows Jesus Christ dying at Auschwitz.
  • "It’s the smell that hits me first — musty, almost sweet, emanating from the green felt that cradles each piece of silver cutlery in its own place." Only one week left to submit! Tell us the story of your family's Jewish heirloom.
  • Mazel tov to Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mezvinsky!
  • If it's true, it's pretty terrifying news.
  • “My mom went to cook at the White House and all I got was this tiny piece of leftover raspberry ganache."
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.