So much for conservative consolidation:
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich’s faltering campaign is about to get another shot in the arm, CBS News has learned.
Billionaire casino magnate Sheldon Adelson plans to give another $10 million to the outside group backing the former Georgia lawmaker who is running behind former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum in the race for the Republican presidential nomination, a source close to Adelson told CBS News.
Adleson and his family have already given $11 million to “Winning our Future,” the super PAC backing Gingrich. The group, which bombarded the airwaves in South Carolina last month ahead of the primary there, is largely credited with helping Gingrich win in the Palmetto state.
The latest $10 million cash injection would raise the Adelson family’s contribution to $21 million, and a different source close to Adelson said he is prepared to drop another $4 million for a total of $25 million. The Huffington Post calculated that the billionaire casino owner earns about $3.3 million an hour.
Until now, people had operated from the assumption that Adelson had decided to hold off on any more interventions. Why the change? It can’t be that Newt Gingrich’s position has improved, because it hasn’t. He’s dropped steadily downward since Florida, and Rick Santorum has charged into the lead nationally while Gingrich has faded to the second tier.
Keeping Gingrich alive for another few weeks means preventing a conservative consolidation before Super Tuesday — and that seems to be Adelson’s motive. Two days ago, the Wall Street Journal reported that Adelson had become concerned with Santorum’s rise in the primaries:
In a bit of political chess, Mr. Adelson is ready to not only directly support the former House speaker in the Republican primary, but to use his cash to push Rick Santorum from his position atop the latest national polls, according to people who have discussed the matter with Mr. Adelson.
If Mr. Gingrich could afford to continue campaigning, one of those people said, he might be able to draw off conservative and evangelical voters from Mr. Santorum, improving the chances of Mitt Romney, who Mr. Adelson believes has a better chance to win November’s general election.
Adelson has committed to funding Romney’s super-PAC if he wins the nomination. This looks like a bit of political jujitsu to keep the Not Romney vote split long enough for Romney to skate to the nomination.
Addendum: Just to make myself clear, there’s nothing wrong or illegitimate about this decision. I have a lot of respect for Adelson, and hey, it’s his money. My only real gripe is that our campaign finance laws should be revamped so that Adelson can give this directly to Gingrich rather than to the super-PAC.