You're Not Rich Enough to Vote in the Sheldon Adelson Primary: Read My Lips

The winner gets millions in campaign spending and a 50-50 shot of being elected.

"Thanks for auditioning. I'll get back to you on the presidency."

Jerome Favre/Bloomberg

If we're really living in Sheldon Adelson's world, and watching Sheldon Adelson's election, all the fuss about Iowa and New Hampshire is risibly retro.

Iowans still have to wait 27 days to caucus, and even the most devout voters in Dixville Notch, New Hampshire, can't weigh in until the calendar turns to Feb. 9. For Republicans, though, one important vote may be decided any day now.

It's the Sheldon Adelson Primary -- perhaps you've heard of it -- and the usual rules don't apply. Here's a voter's guide:

When is primary day?

Unclear. It was thought to be in October, then in December. It could be today, or tomorrow. Maybe it was yesterday. And anyway, mind your business.

Am I eligible to participate?

If your name is Sheldon Gary Adelson, you are 82, you have a wife named Miriam, and you're rich enough to have a water park at your home and be one of America's biggest philanthropists, yes. Otherwise, no.

Is there a photo identification requirement?

No, that's only for when poor people might vote.

How many delegates are up for grabs?

Zero. If by "delegates" you mean "dollars," then a lot.

Will newspaper endorsements matter?

The Las Vegas Review-Journal is suddenly taking on outsized influence.

Is this one of those important primaries, like New Hampshire's, or meaningless ones, like Wyoming's?

Hard to say. On one hand, the winner will be helped by millions of dollars in independent political spending that could tear down his or her rivals. On the other hand, the last winner of the Sheldon Adelson Primary was Newt Gingrich.

What did Gingrich do with his endorsement?

He lost, then lamented "an election process that radically favors billionaires and is discriminating against the middle class."

Do winners of the Sheldon Adelson Primary generally go on to win election?

Sometimes. Of the 36 candidates (including Gingrich) supported by Adelson and his wife during 2012 and 2014, 18 won and 18 lost. Those might be the only 50-50 odds in all of Vegas.

What are some top issues?

Israel's security, which is paramount. Gambling, which is fine when done at casinos, bad when done online. The "sins" of drug use and prostitution, which presumably interfere with many families' wholesome Vegas vacations.

Is this primary open to Democrats, or only Republicans?

Democrats used to be eligible. Now, not so much.


According to Adelson, "There is now a visceral anti-Israel movement among rank-and-file Democrats, a disturbing development that my parents' generation would not have ignored." According to a 2008 profile in the New Yorker, "as his wealth grew, he began to favor tax-averse Republican economic policies."

So, who's likely to win?

Scott Walker had some early buzz but faded during the rise of Jeb Bush. Bush blew it in April, when Marco Rubio leapt into the lead. Ted Cruz made a late run due to the support of Adelson's wife.

Wow, what a topsy-turvy race. What polling is all that based on?



Is George Pataki still running for president?



"It's no understatement to say that this campaign wouldn't be where we are today without your continued help and support," Carly Fiorina e-mailed her supporters yesterday. "When I launched this campaign, I was an asterisk: pollsters and pundits didn't think we stood a chance."

And now? After a late-September surge that was over by Halloween, Fiorina is back in the low single digits in national polls. In New Hampshire, she's plummeted from second place to eighth. In Iowa, she finds herself in, as Joe Lieberman might charitably spin it, a four-way split decision for sixth.

So maybe Fiorina (Stanford '76) was launching a Hail Mary pass on Friday when she tweeted:

Her wish didn't come true, as Stanford thrashed Iowa, 45 to 16.

Twitter had a field day with Fiorina's academic apostasy. Among the rejoinders:

On CNN on Sunday, Fiorina said her tweet had been a joke. "For heaven's sakes," she asked, "can't a girl ever have a little bit of fun?"

If Fiorina has figured out a way to have fun while getting trounced, she'll likely find lots of losers seeking her wise counsel. She might start with the Iowa football team.

(Read My Lips is a column dedicated to the proposition that men and women in a position of power, or the pursuit of it, will say or do things for which they will be sorry.)

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