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Newt’s money man

Posted: March 20, 2012 10:27 a.m.
Updated: March 21, 2012 5:00 a.m.

Las Vegas billionaire Sheldon Adelson is in store for a big hug and thank-you at the end of the Republican primaries.

Without his millions of dollars in campaign contributions, we would have never been witness to the grand misadventure that has been Newt 2012.

Where would we be without some of the hard-pressing topics that Gingrich has tackled on the campaign trail? Moon colonies, speeches centered on the transcontinental railroad, a push for so-called “brain science” research -- these are the issues Americans truly care about. Forget about jobs and the economy.  

Adelson, who is CEO of one of the most prominent casinos in Las Vegas, has almost single-handily given Gingrich a campaign platform through donations of about $11 million.

But Gingrich’s candidacy was never supposed to go this far.

Last June, he lost nearly all of his top campaign staff, including his campaign manager, his national spokesman and several other key aides and strategists.

His candidacy was also quickly marred by a striking criticism of fellow Republican Paul Ryan’s House budget proposal.

News then broke that he had established a nearly $500,000 credit line at Tiffany Jewelers while his campaign was floundering financially.

And while his competitors scoured for votes in the early voting states, he took off for a two-week cruise in Greece.

But his stumbling campaign found a shimmer of hope in the Palmetto State with the help of Adelson’s checkbook.

After falling flat on his face with a fourth-place finish in Iowa and a fifth-place finish in New Hampshire, Gingrich came roaring back with a win in South Carolina.

According to Federal Election Commission reports, Gingrich’s super-PAC “Winning Our Future” obtained close to $11 million in the weeks leading up to the Palmetto State primary.  

Almost all of that money came from just two people: Adelson and his wife, Miriam.

That cash came in handy when the Gingrich campaign faced extinction. It undoubtedly helped to pay for TV ads in the state that absolutely skewered Mitt Romney and portrayed him as a money grubbing investor during his time with Bain Capital.

Add those attacks to questions about Romney’s Mormon faith and his “Yankee” background and the door swung open wide for a Gingrich victory.

It’s a recipe that also fit well in Georgia, especially with Gingrich representing the Peach State as a congressman for 20 years.

So how far would Gingrich have gone without his money man?

It’s hard to tell, but it seems logical that he would have quickly fallen by the wayside much like past candidates who stumbled early out of the gate.

In 2008, for instance, John McCain finished fourth in the Iowa caucuses just like Gingrich in 2012. But McCain followed that up with wins in key states like New Hampshire, South Carolina and Florida.

Four years ago, McCain somewhat fumbled early as well, losing staffers and money before the official primary season kicked off that January in the corn fields of Iowa.

But he came back as fellow contenders Romney and Mike Huckabee traded barbs on the campaign trail and early front runner Rudy Giuliani’s candidacy essentially imploded.

By the end of Super Tuesday that year, crowds flocked to McCain and began chanting “Mac is back.” He found support, perhaps because of this underdog status, and went on to win his party’s nomination.

Rick Santorum has experienced a similar storyline in 2012 as he has come from the back of the pack to go toe-to-toe with Romney, long considered the so-called inevitable nominee.

Gingrich, however, has never found that support. Beyond South Carolina and Georgia, he hasn’t even found support in the rest of the South.

In tight races in Alabama and Mississippi, he finished second, besting Romney by only a few percentage points.

In Tennessee, he won only one county in route to a third-place finish.

As Republican voters largely center around two choices -- Romney and Santorum -- Gingrich has been left in the dust.

But along the way he has found one big fan in Mr. Adelson. For Newt’s sake, he needs to hope his casino benefactor doesn’t care much about such his lack of return on investment.  

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