Sheldon Adelson Swoops in to Rescue Gingrich (and Maybe Romney, Too)

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Eric Paul Zamora / Fresno Bee / MCT / ZUMAPRESS

Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich tours the World Ag Expo Feb. 14, 2012 in Tulare, California.

According to CNN, Newt Gingrich’s candidacy is getting some CPR in the form of another $10 million donation to his super PAC from the billionaire casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, whose family has already pumped $10 million into the group. The money won’t arrive a moment too early for Newt. As Bloomberg noted Friday morning, Gingrich is more or less out of money. His campaign has gone dark on the airwaves, which is campaign death. (I broadcast, therefore I am.) The fare at his events has been reduced to “free water and coffee.” At least he isn’t charging for the water!

Ten million bucks could give Gingrich a last shot at the nomination. Though he’s writing off the February 28 votes in Michigan and Arizona, he  could fare well in some of the ten Super Tuesday states that will vote on March 6, many of them southern states, including Newt’s home state of Georgia. But it’s possible that Mitt Romney is the real beneficiary here. The more the anti-Mitt vote is split, the better off he is. His nightmare is that either Gingrich or Rick Santorum drops out and the remaining candidate consolidates the conservative base and starts drawing majority votes in the primaries. Divide and conquer is Mitt’s winning formula.

(MORESheldon Adelson, Gingrich’s Money Man, Doesn’t Hate Mitt Romney)

But won’t much of that $10 million just go into negative attacks against Romney, who, it’s possible, can’t sustain much more damage before collapsing entirely himself? That’s not clear. Adelson was not thrilled with the Mitt-bashing his money funded in South Carolina, and it’s possible that he’s giving on the condition that Gingrich’s camp doesn’t disembowel Romney. As I wrote recently, Adelson likes Romney fine, and is comfortable with the idea of a Romney White House. His support for Gingrich has been a matter of friendship, not anti-Romneyism. And to hear the Wall Street Journal tell it, it’s Santorum whom Adelson thinks should not be the nominee.

You can imagine, then, the logical deal he might have struck with Gingrich backers: Here’s another ten million. Spend it on positive ads. Spend it slamming Santorum–especially in Michigan, please. But go easy on Mitt. That way, Adelson gets to remain loyal to his old friend Newt, without alienating the candidate who still remains the likeliest nominee. There would be risks, of course. Newt could knock out Santorum, and suddenly Romney would be facing a lone conservative rival. Or, if Romney loses Michigan, a strong Newt showing on Super Tuesday could finish him off. But things are already pretty bad for Romney and for the moment, he has to consider Adelson the enemy of his enemy, and therefore his friend.

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