America’s biggest Jewish political donor is throwing his support behind Donald Trump.
Sheldon Adelson, the Las Vegas casino mogul and GOP kingmaker who has been on the fence throughout the rocky 2016 Republican primary, has finally made his mind up.
But he doesn’t sound very enthusiastic about it.
“I’m a Republican, he’s a Republican. He’s our nominee. Whoever the nominee would turn out to be, any one of the 17 — he was one of the 17. He won fair and square,” Adelson told reporters surrounding him during a New York event organized by Rabbi Shmuley Boteach’s World Values Network. “Donald Trump will be good for Israel,” he explained.
The billionaire did not indicate in the brief interview what sort of financial backing his support for Trump would entail.
Adelson contributed more than $100 million in 2012 and if he lives up to his own standard, he is set to be one of Trump’s most valuable assets in the presidential campaign. Trump is now trying to raise $1 billion for the general election, not an easy task for a candidate who does not have an elaborate fundraising organization and who has yet to cultivate relationships with the Republican Party’s key donors.
Donald Trump was clearly not Adelson’s preferred candidate in the GOP primary race. According to reports and people in close contact with him, Adelson was debating between Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio and eventually decided to remain on the sideline until the field clears. This move was attributed, in part, to Adelson’s experience 4 years ago, when he poured massive amounts of cash into former House Speaker Newt Gingrich’s failed run, only to be accused later by party insiders of artificially prolonging the primary race.
Adelson and Trump seem to have a lot in common: to start, both are billionaire businessmen involved, to differing extents, in the gaming industry. Both are known for their tough negotiating skills and their sometimes-abrasive style.
But their early encounters during this election cycle weren’t necessarily positive.
While other presidential candidates actively courted Adelson, Trump maintained a low profile, holding one closed door meeting at the early stages of the campaign and reaching out in his own style by sending Adelson a glossy photo album of an event in which he was honored by a Jewish publication.
When Adelson seemed to lean toward Rubio, Trump stung back in a barbed tweet: “Sheldon Adelson is looking to give big dollars to Rubio because he feels he can mold him into his perfect little puppet. I agree!”
But that was back in October of last year. Now, with Trump becoming the inevitable Republican candidate, Adelson is behind him all the way to the November elections.
Adelson’s decision could mean not only a significant cash boost for Trump’s White House bid, but could also potentially pave the way for other key Jewish donors who are not quite ready to take the plunge and announce their support for Trump.
Adelson is a board member and the biggest funder of the Republican Jewish Coalition. The group had endorsed Trump on Wednesday, but withheld its praise to the candidate, focusing instead on the need for unity within the party. With Adelson giving the green light to openly back Trump, the group’s key donors may feel more at ease in opening their hearts, and pocketbooks, to the presumptive nominee.
Nathan Guttman, staff writer, was the Forward’s Washington bureau chief. He joined the staff in 2006 after serving for five years as Washington correspondent for the Israeli dailies Haaretz and The Jerusalem Post. In Israel, he was the features editor for Ha’aretz and chief editor of Channel 1 TV evening news. He was born in Canada and grew up in Israel. He is a graduate of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.