Did New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie just win the primary that REALLY counts? Did he win what some in the media are calling the “Adelson Primary” — Adelson as in Sherman, the billionaire who can even keep a hopeless candidacy such as former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich’s afloat?
This time Adelson insists his priority is to back someone who can win (Gingrich never seemed in that category and now after taking $15 million from his big bankroller with a big smile on his face he now says fat cats such as Adelson have too much influence). And, many reports say, someone who has a good attitude on Israel.
Although Christie stirred up a firestorm by referring to Israel’s West Bank as “occupied territories” and quickly tried to correct his un-PC error, some reports suggests Christie may be Adelson’s dream candidate: the Governor whose internal investigation (surprise!) cleared him of wrongdoing really hammered home his desire to win and the party’s need to put up a candidate who wants to win and works hard to win..
The Las Vegas Review’s Steve Sebelius announced Christie the “clear” winner of the Adelson primary:
There were many candidates at the Republican Jewish Coalition’s annual spring meeting Saturday at The Venetian. But there was only one real contender.
If there can be said to be a winner of what the Washington Post dubbed the “Adelson primary,” for Las Vegas Sands Chairman Sheldon Adelson, it was New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. Apart from almost every other speaker, Christie showed a pragmatic understanding of the real nature of politics — winning comes first — without seeming as if he was ready to sell his soul to move from Trenton to Washington, D.C.
But that fits right in with Adelson’s newfound decision to search for a candidate who can win, not just one who sounds the right philosophical notes. And Christie hit that theme hard, even echoing former Democratic President Bill Clinton.
“I’m not in this business to have an academic conversation,” Christie said. “I’m not in this business to win the argument. I’m in this business to win elections.”
In a line that’s fast becoming part of Christie’s stump speech (he used it at the Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Md. this year, too), Christie reminded the crowd that when Republicans fight with each other and lose, Democrats get to govern. As a result, he said he’s favoring a single principle in 2014: winning.
“It’s time for us to stop worrying as a party to stop worrying about wins the argument and start worrying about who wins the election,” he said. “If we want to have arguments about things that lead to nothing, we can just form a university. They serve a purpose, but not in our business.”
Got that, eggheads? You’ve no place in the GOP!
But seriously, folks, of all the pro-Israel pandering that went on at the Republican Jewish Coalition — and it was plentiful, obvious and clumsy — it was Christie’s pandering to Adelson on electability that was most sublime. And not just because he prefaced it with a roundup of stories about how he took on entrenched, Democratic interests in New Jersey and won. That part of his remarks was designed to blunt the criticism that if one goes for winning over everything else, one must necessarily surrender one’s principles. (Indeed, Clinton’s popularity among far-left progressives who disdain his triangulations and coalition-building has never been high.)
Pundits can write until their fingers on their keyboards drop off, but if Adelson backs Christie, he’s a contender. A big contender.
And herein lies the challenge to one Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul. Some analysts (including yours truly) can see how he could actually win the GOP nomination. Some disagree.
Will we see Rand Paul trying to win or at least tie in the Adelson primary?
Or are all the votes in already?
UPDATE: The Washington Monthly’s Ed Kilgore:
The whole lurid and Very Vegas scene was a reminder of the capricious nature of a
presidential nominating process where an eccentric old man in an inherently shady business has the power to make a candidate instantly formidable without making much of a dent in his fortune. And for all the talk about Adelson “maturing” (a pretty funny term for someone his age) and learning a lesson from his 2012 flyer on Newt Gingrich, you have to figure he’s tempted to flaunt this power again. How many more times will he have that opportunity?
UPDATE: The only public declaration of a “winner” of the “Sheldon Primary” I’ve seen was from Las Vegas Review Journal columnist Steve Sebelius, who crowned Christie—not, apparently, based on any intel about Adelson’s reaction to the candidates, but as a result of Sebelius’ belief that the only thing Sheldon cares about presently is backing a winner, and Christie said winning was all that he care about, too. This analysis, unfortunately, begs the question of whether Christie still looks like the best general-election bet for the GOP. The polls sure don’t support that proposition.
Joe Gandelman is a former fulltime journalist who freelanced in India, Spain, Bangladesh and Cypress writing for publications such as the Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek. He also did radio reports from Madrid for NPR’s All Things Considered. He has worked on two U.S. newspapers and quit the news biz in 1990 to go into entertainment. He also has written for The Week and several online publications, did a column for Cagle Cartoons Syndicate and has appeared on CNN.