Newt Gingrich, who won South Carolina’s Republican presidential primary and is gaining support in opinion polls before next week’s Florida primary, got a financial boost yesterday with the announcement that Miriam Adelson, the wife of Las Vegas Sands Corp. chairman Sheldon Adelson, had agreed to donate $5 million to a political action committee supporting his candidacy.
The contribution, confirmed by a person close to the casino executive, matches the $5 million that Sheldon Adelson, a longtime Gingrich friend, gave earlier this month to Winning Our Future, a super-PAC that used the money for ads to help the former U.S. House speaker in South Carolina.
While $5 million in Florida, with almost a dozen media markets, won’t buy as much air time as it did in South Carolina, the money will help Gingrich close the financial gap with former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, who has led all Republican presidential candidates in fundraising. The primary is Jan. 31.
“While the Adelson $5 million only buys a few ads’ worth of airtime in this pricey market, it has real symbolic force,” said Rogan Kersh, associate dean of New York University’s Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service. “Coming on the heels of Gingrich’s big South Carolina win, the splashy announcement of this donation creates the perception of momentum shifting to Gingrich, and in primary campaigns as fluid as this one, perception has a way of turning into reality.”
Tobe Berkovitz, a communication professor at Boston University, said in an e-mail that the money “insures the scorched-earth campaign that is posing as the Republican primary will continue unabated until next Tuesday.” The super-PAC earlier paid for a film criticizing Romney’s stewardship at the Boston-based private equity firm Bain Capital LLC, calling him a “corporate raider” motivated by greed.
“Romney’s newfound attack-dog style, unveiled in last night’s debate, requires that Newt hit back aggressively and quickly,” Berkovitz said. “TV ads run by the super-PAC can help with this goal. Plus the press will replay the attack ads ad infinitum, maximizing exposure to the message.”
Gingrich has wasted little time trying to capitalize financially on his 12 percentage point victory over Romney in South Carolina on Jan. 21. Since then he has raised $2 million, according to R.C. Hammond, a campaign spokesman, and he is holding two Tampa-area fundraisers today before arriving in Sarasota.
Even so, he has acknowledged that he will be outspent in Florida.
“Governor Romney will have vastly more money than we will, but we will have many more people,” Gingrich said this morning at a St. Petersburg restaurant packed with supporters. “People power beats money power.”
The $5 million will help Gingrich compete financially, said Steffen W. Schmidt, a political science professor at Iowa State University in Ames.
“It clearly keeps Gingrich rolling and is a threat to Mitt Romney, at least in the short run,” Schmidt said.
The question is how much even $5 million can narrow the fundraising gap with Romney, said James Thurber, director of the Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies at American University in Washington.
“It is a drop in the bucket compared to pro-Mitt resources,” Thurber said. “Newt is significantly behind on the ground and with money in Florida.”
Republican state committeeman Tony DiMatteo, chairman of the Gingrich campaign in Pinellas County, which includes St. Petersburg, said the disparity in campaign cash might be overblown. He said the exposure Gingrich is getting from the debates and media coverage outweighs an opponent’s campaign commercials.
“There’s a certain saturation” in campaign ads, DiMatteo said. “When the commercials come on, it’s a good time to hit the head or grab a beer.”
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