If the Republican presidential contest was an act of dramatic fiction rather than a lurid and sometimes horrifying reality show, tonight’s candidate debate at the Venetian in Las Vegas would end with the proprietor of that gilded palace of sin, Sheldon Adelson, coming onstage to name a victor, who would be awarded with a personal endorsement and a super-pac check for $500 million. Why mess with snap polls and focus groups when a real player in the process can put his money where his mouth is?
Alas, it is not to be. Adelson will presumably be in the audience. Having never been in the Venetian Theater, I do not know if there is some private curtained box where the wily but media-shy billionaire can watch un-watched, like a totalitarian dictator. But we do know that several candidates will find time for individual meetings with Adelson, including — for the first time as far as we know — his fellow Vegas property developer Donald Trump. It’s hard to know what Trump will find to say to the man whose close friend Bibi Netanyahu recently denounced him as an anti-Muslim bigot. Perhaps he’ll regale Adelson with stories of the many Jews he’s found to be tough negotiators over the years, or brag about his Jewish professional retainers. Or maybe he’ll warn his host, who’s made much of his fortune in Asia, to beware the deceptive guiles of the Chinese. There’s just no telling.
The other big reason Adelson will not be awarding any trophies tonight is that he is reportedly at odds with his wife, Miriam, on which candidate the couple should endorse. So the Adelson primary will go on for a while, at least, with the table stakes as high as they get.