Republican presidential hopefuls woo billionaire casino tycoon

Governors meet Sheldon Adelson, whose backing could boost 2016 bid for White House

PUBLISHED : Monday, 31 March, 2014, 5:57am
UPDATED : Monday, 31 March, 2014, 5:57am

Three Republican governors eyeing the White House, including New Jersey's embattled Chris Christie, have attempted to court Sheldon Adelson, a billionaire casino owner who could give any of their eventual campaigns a major financial boost.

The governors met one-on-one with Adelson, 80, in Las Vegas, Nevada, and addressed a conference of the Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC), an advocacy group that counts him as a board member and benefactor.

More than 400 of the coalition's top donors and those seeking support from them gathered at the weekend at Adelson's convention centre-hotel-casino complex, part of his international Las Vegas Sands Corp.

Christie, who twice won the governorship in a Democratic- leaning state, pitched himself to the group as an example Republicans can follow in efforts to broaden the party's appeal.

We need to go out to places where we're uncomfortable and to listen
Governor Chris Christie

He said that in his re-election victory last November, exit polls showed he received 51 per cent of New Jersey's Hispanic vote and boosted his share of blacks' support to 21 per cent from 7 per cent four years earlier.

"We need to go out to places where we're uncomfortable and to listen," he said. "Where you spend your time is the greatest indicator of respect."

Like Christie, Governors John Kasich of Ohio and Scott Walker of Wisconsin offered themselves as exemplary Republican candidates.

Asked about a 2016 presidential run by an audience member, Walker, seeking re-election to his current post in November, said that "any Republican who is talking about anything other than" the 2014 midterm elections "is doing a disservice not only to the party but the country".

He added, referring to the White House race: "We need to send people from outside of Washington."

Former Florida governor Jeb Bush addressed a coalition dinner on Thursday and also met privately with Adelson.

The chance to curry favour with Adelson has helped draw some of the Republican Party's major figures to RJC gatherings.

Adelson is the 10th-richest person in the world, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, amassing his US$36.9 billion as owner of the world's largest casino company.

He was also the biggest spender in the 2012 US presidential election, investing about US$93 million along with his wife, Miriam Adelson.