Presidential races

Can 2016 GOP hopefuls hit jackpot?

Getty Images and Greg Nash

Several potential 2016 GOP contenders are heading to Las Vegas this weekend for what some have termed the “Sheldon primary.”

Casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, who poured nearly $150 million into Republican races and groups during the 2012 elections, is hosting the event at his luxury hotel, The Venetian Resort Casino.

The gathering is actually the Republican Jewish Coalition’s spring leadership meeting, which began Thursday and runs through Sunday morning. But it’s also a de facto platform for Adelson to evaluate who might be the party’s best shot at winning the presidency in 2016. 

“Join us for a terrific weekend of poker, politics, and policy at the fabulous Venetian Resort and Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada!” the RJC said on its website. 

Adelson is a member of the RJC’s board, and is a staunch pro-Israel supporter.

Getting his blessing would be a boost for any hopeful, both financially and symbolically. The billionaire spent more than $150 million in the 2012 election through many channels, first backing former Speaker Newt Gingrich in the GOP primary and later throwing his support to eventual nominee Mitt Romney. 

{mosads}On Thursday night, former Gov. Jeb Bush (R-Fla.) was featured at a VIP dinner at Adelson’s private airplane hanger. Bush is reportedly weighing a White House bid, but has been more discreet about his ambitions compared to his competitors.

A golf tournament was held before the dinner, and a poker tournament is scheduled for the weekend as well.

Saturday’s schedule will include speeches from former Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton, Gov. Scott Walker (R-Wis.), Gov. Chris Christie (R-N.J.) in the morning and Gov. John Kasich (R-Ohio) in the afternoon.

Among the names, Bush, Walker and Christie have been floated the most as potential candidates. The event could be considered important if they want to win over Adelson’s support.

Adelson is worth an estimated $37.9 billion, according to Bloomberg News.

Walker and Christie have been faced with their fair share of scandals so far this year, but the event comes just as Christie tries to make a political comeback.

An internal investigation Christie ordered a law firm to conduct to evaluate the bridge scandal and the distribution of Superstorm Sandy recovery aid exonerated the governor when its report was released Thursday.

On Saturday evening, former Vice President Dick Cheney will address the event’s gala dinner. Some members of Congress are expected to attend, including Reps. Sean Duffy (R-Wis.) and Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), who’s running for Senate, according to The Washington Post.

According to the RJC, the meeting is exclusively for members of the organization’s national leadership. Opportunities to join its national leadership start at the $1,000 contribution level.

The event’s location in Las Vegas is also important as the city lobbies to host the GOP’s 2016 convention.

Last month, the gambling capital became a finalist along with seven other cities: Cleveland, Cincinnati, Columbus, Denver, Dallas, Kansas City and Phoenix. 

Tags 2016 Chris Christie John Kasich Las Vegas Republican Jewish Coalition Scott Walker Sheldon Adelson
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