How Ru­bio won over Adel­son

The Jewish Chronicle - - WORLD NEWS - BY ROBERT PHILPOT

IT IS hard to ar­gue that casino-owner and Repub­li­can su­per-donor Shel­don Adel­son is not a gambling man. But his ap­par­ently im­mi­nent en­dorse­ment of Marco Ru­bio, the Florida Sen­a­tor hop­ing to take on Hil­lary Clin­ton in next year’s pres­i­den­tial elec­tion, still ap­pears some­thing of a long shot. Trail­ing fron­trun­ner Don­ald Trump by nearly 20 points, the 44-year-old Cuban-Amer­i­can hardly seems a sure bet for the Repub­li­can nom­i­na­tion.

Nonethe­less, even while trail­ing in the polls, Mr Ru­bio has fought the famed “Adel­son pri­mary” re­lent­lessly. He is said to phone the bil­lion­aire sev­eral times a month to up­date him on his cam­paign. For good rea­son: with an es­ti­mated net worth of $32 bil­lion, Mr Adel­son spent $100 mil­lion back­ing Repub­li­can can­di­dates in 2012. Singer, Ru­bio and Adel­son

Cer­tainly, af­ter a cash-strapped sum­mer, money now ap­pears to be flow­ing into Mr Ru­bio’s cam­paign. Last week, he won the en­dorse­ment of bil­lion­aire hedge fund man­ager Paul Singer, who, like Mr Adel­son, serves on the board of the Repub­li­can Jewish Coali­tion.

But Mr Singer and Mr Adel­son’s back­ing for Mr Ru­bio does not sim­ply re­flect the pres­i­den­tial hope­ful’s hawk­ish for­eign pol­icy views — through­out the sum­mer he trum­peted his op­po­si­tion to the Iran nu­clear deal — nor his self-de­scribed “un­con­di­tional sup­port” for Is­rael. Such views are widely shared among those con­test­ing the Repub­li­can nom­i­na­tion. Rather, it is an in­di­ca­tion of the man­ner in which the Repub­li­can es­tab­lish­ment is now ral­ly­ing be­hind Mr Ru­bio, a one­time Tea Party favourite who, while re­main­ing staunchly con­ser­va­tive, has inched

to­wards the cen­tre ground since his elec­tion to the Sen­ate in 2010.

With Jeb Bush’s cam­paign sink­ing un­der the weight of poor poll num­bers and the can­di­date’s lack­lus­tre per­for­mance in last week’s Repub­li­can de­bate, this trickle of sup­port to­wards Mr Ru­bio may soon be­come a flood as the party’s lead­er­ship and more mod­er­ate busi­ness wing at­tempts to pre­vent Mr Trump or his fel­low out­sider, the evan­gel­i­cal former neu­ro­sur­geon Ben Car­son, from win­ning the nom­i­na­tion. As an Adel­son as­so­ciate told Politico in April: “He doesn’t want the cra­zies to drive the party’s prospects into the ground.” In­deed, Mr Singer’s en­dorse­ment last week point­edly sug­gested that Mr Ru­bio was the only can­di­date who can “nav­i­gate this com­plex pri­mary process and still be in a po­si­tion to de­feat” Mrs Clin­ton next Novem­ber.

With one year to go un­til the gen­eral elec­tion, such sur­veys should be viewed with huge cau­tion, but polls pit­ting Mr Ru­bio against Mrs Clin­ton show the two can­di­dates in a vir­tual tie. Mr Adel­son be­lieves the youth­ful Latino, the son of a bar­tender and ho­tel maid, is best able to ad­dress the prin­ci­pal rea­son for Mitt Rom­ney’s de­feat in 2012: the GOP can­di­date’s in­abil­ity to reach be­yond the party’s base of older, wealthy white votes.

His­tory sug­gests that to bet against Mr Ru­bio might be un­wise. When, in May 2009, he an­nounced he planned to run for Florida’s va­cant sen­ate seat, he trailed the state’s pop­u­lar gover­nor, Char­lie Crist, by 30 per cent in the polls. Within 18 months, Mr Ru­bio had dis­patched Mr Crist, won the Repub­li­can nom­i­na­tion and a seat in the Sen­ate, and sparked a wave of spec­u­la­tion about a fu­ture run for the White

House.

PHO­TOS: GETTY IMAGES

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