GOP 2016 hopefuls address big donors in Vegas
March 29th, 2014
08:19 PM ET
9 years ago

GOP 2016 hopefuls address big donors in Vegas

(CNN) - They may have their sights set on the White House, but Saturday they were in Sin City, talking up donation high rollers.

Several GOP leaders spoke at the Republican Jewish Coalition's annual spring leadership meeting in Las Vegas, where some of the party's most influential donors and fundraisers meet to talk politics and policy.

[twitter-follow screen_name='politicalticker'] [twitter-follow screen_name='ConorCNN']

The crowd drew big political names, many of whom are potential contenders for the presidential nomination in 2016: New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and Ohio Gov. John Kasich.

Walker and Kasich, red governors in battleground states that voted for President Barack Obama last cycle, were received warmly, but it was Christie who appeared to have captured the audience's hearts, minds and, potentially, pocketbooks.

One of the biggest pocketbooks there belongs to prominent Republican donor and billionaire casino owner Sheldon Adelson.

Adelson, who has spent tens of millions of dollars supporting conservative candidates, met privately with all the presidential contenders, a source told CNN, including former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who was at the summit earlier in the week.

Fresh off a scandal that has shaken up his administration, welcomed with a standing ovation, Christie came out swinging, positioning himself as a leader who can win on the national stage.

"As Republicans, you might be interested, once again, in winning elections. I know I am - and see, I'm not in this business to have an academic conversation. I am not in this business to win the argument. I am in this business to win elections. And here's why: Because when we win elections, we get a chance to govern," he said.

While his political ambitions have been bruised by the so-called “Bridgegate,” Christie was quick to point out what he learned from the experience.

“It’s about me being a lot more questioning about things that are going on, not to just trust based upon long-term relationships or past performances, and it’s about sending very clear signals… to not only the people who you serve, but to the people who serve with you, that certain conduct and actions are acceptable and certain are completely unacceptable,” he said.

Christie and some other 2016 contenders have exchanged barbs. Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum took a not-so-veiled swipe at Christie at the Conservative Political Action Committee conference this year, saying principles were more important than wins.

Christie has made clear he disagrees, arguing he is a decisive leader who can get things done. That kind of leadership is missing in America today, especially at the White House, he says.

"When I say something, I mean it - and I am willing to do difficult things that will be perceived differently by some, and maybe even poorly by some. But if I believe it in my heart, and I believe it's what the people I lead need, then I'm going to do it without care or concern for the consequence," he said.

"In New Jersey, no one has to wonder whether I'm for them or against them. There's never really a cloud of indecision around what I say and what I do," he added later.

Christie's address focused mainly on that idea of leadership as well as domestic issues, but he dipped into foreign policy toward the end, especially when asked about his April 2012 trip to Israel.

It was while reflecting on how "overwhelming" and "extraordinary" that trip was that he caused a bit of a stir, using two words that some in the largely Jewish, pro-Israel audience took offense to.

"I took a helicopter ride from the occupied territories across and just felt personally how extraordinary that was to understand, the military risk that Israel faces every day," he said.

In response, there were some “audible murmurs” in the crowd, according to Time magazine’s Zeke Miller who was in the room.

The term "occupied territories" is a cause of dispute and controversy. Palestinians, along with the United Nations, consider the West Bank to be Palestinian, but under military occupation by Israel. Israel says that the land is "disputed," arguing the Palestinians do not have a legitimate claim to all of it.

Matt Brooks, executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition, downplayed the concerns, telling CNN Christie "wasn't trying to set policy. He just misspoke in the moment."

Miller noted as well that Christie “was very well received, much more positive than the other governors.”

For all the talk of 2016 surrounding the speeches, one speaker was quick to push back.

"Any Republican who's talking about anything other than 2014 is doing a disservice both to the party and to the country," said Wisconsin’s Walker, who focused his speech on solutions the Republican Party can offer for the country's problems.

In particular, he praised the 29 Republican governors who, he says, have led the country on the road to recovery. Their success makes them better fit for the Oval Office, he said, adding that the next GOP presidential nominee must be someone "from outside Washington."

"If we want to have a strong America, if we want to have a healthy economy, look to the states - because in the states we're talking about growth and opportunity," he said.

"We're the ones at forefront of getting things done. We're the ones who make things happen," he said later.

Among those things, he cited turning a $3.6 billion budget deficit in Wisconsin into a near billion-dollar surplus, lowering the 9.2% unemployment rate by three points, and convincing people that the state is heading in the right direction: Ninety-five percent of Wisconsin business owners say so, he said.

"When you reform things, you make them more efficient, more effective, more accountable to the public," Walker added, arguing the GOP cannot be the party of austerity or "less," but of "more" - "more freedom, more opportunity, more prosperity."

Walker is up for re-election this fall after a bitter recall election in 2012. At the time, significant protests nearly shut down the state Capitol after Walker proposed a controversial bill that scaled back collective bargaining rights for most state workers and cut the education budget.

"Third time in four years running for governor - I'm getting pretty good at it," he said to laughs.

For Kasich, who is up for re-election this fall, the summit was a chance to talk domestic policy. In his address, he focused on his family and his record in the governor's office, highlighting the economic turnaround in the key battleground state.

"In Ohio, we're no longer fly over, Sheldon. We want you to come. We want you to invest. We want you to get to know us because Ohio really is the heart of it all, and it's a place of miracles - just think about the University of Dayton in the Elite 8 today," he said, referring to the NCAA college basketball tournament.

Kasich made repeated references and addresses to "Sheldon," talking as if he and Adelson were chatting at an intimate affair.

–CNN's Kevin Bohn contributed to this report.

Filed under: Chris Christie • John Kasich • Scott Walker • Sheldon Adelson
soundoff (181 Responses)
  1. Rick McDaniel

    No different from the subversive Democrats.........who have all the same type of wealthy donors, that give to the destroy America.

    March 30, 2014 08:40 am at 8:40 am |
  2. RandyF

    Rich guys supply candidates and you just get to choose between their lackeys.

    March 30, 2014 08:45 am at 8:45 am |
  3. And just becasue

    Politicians off to the highest bidders. What a country we are.

    March 30, 2014 09:04 am at 9:04 am |
  4. sim namore

    Dance horsey, dance !

    March 30, 2014 09:05 am at 9:05 am |
  5. gstlab3

    wow., who has a problem with money being raised and who mentions the fact the donors were rich and Jewish?
    the real haters that who.,
    the likes of cnn and these jellous democrats who think everyone should be dumbed down and made equally ignorant of the facts and economically poor so that nobody is unequal and or poor only as long as the wealthy get soaked it's cool with the likes of cnn and liberal progressive demoncrats/communists and statists who know nothing of hard work and earning a living.

    March 30, 2014 09:07 am at 9:07 am |
  6. The Republican Party Is Dead To Me

    Sickening. To think that this kind of creep has a chance at the highest office in the land. It's sickening.

    March 30, 2014 09:12 am at 9:12 am |
  7. Serge Storms

    Looks like Christie is scoring points despite the bridge scandal. I'm not endorsing him, but I do think he is a survivor. He's still in the hunt, it's not like he's got a long list of heavyweights to get past in the primary.

    March 30, 2014 09:31 am at 9:31 am |
  8. Gunderson

    So many Intelligent posts here. Old Gunderson amused so many of you rip rich person that may have helped you have a job. For last 100 years you and those like you have voted people into office that have made the current situation you now face. Take look. over 17 Trillion in debt, 50 million on Food Stamps, real unemployment around 20 percent, Country, States, people all in serious debt yet you stick head in sand hoping it will all go away.

    If the polls are correct there will be a new day in Washington.

    March 30, 2014 09:40 am at 9:40 am |
  9. so much for honesty

    Call it what it's, the brown noser's parade....

    March 30, 2014 09:42 am at 9:42 am |
  10. Jsa Vet MN

    How can we serve you Master !!

    March 30, 2014 09:52 am at 9:52 am |

    Dems make me nearly puke in my own mouth . Go back and read your own post and you will n0 why !

    March 30, 2014 09:54 am at 9:54 am |
  12. 1Bigboy

    To see these charlatans fly to Las Vegas, sin city, is a shameless display of self interest and testomy to a political system corrupted by money. The truth is we have no money, no influence and the only reason politicians even bother to address us is because we can vote. Do not allow your state to take away your right to vote, it is all we have left.

    March 30, 2014 09:55 am at 9:55 am |
  13. woodie

    Republican's are the most consistent liars. Unfortunately I've found this from history. I find it hard to punch a ticket for a party of liars.

    March 30, 2014 09:56 am at 9:56 am |
  14. VVVVV

    When politician have these meetings they are always courting rich people. It's the money drive. Duh! Now if you want this to influence you the least, all you can do is become an educated voter!

    March 30, 2014 09:57 am at 9:57 am |
  15. quieteye

    We The People not bright enough simply to vote as to clean the House and Senate of corruption. May take a few election but wipe away the dirt as if your vote is a rag. Wipe, wipe till clean. Politicians will get the message and you might get your democracy and government back to whom it belongs.

    March 30, 2014 10:01 am at 10:01 am |
  16. TxGran

    Oh, yeah; just what we of those mean-spirited Repubs in the White House. The reason we are in the shape we are in is due to the Party of No. In 2007 jobs went the way of the wind, and a Jobs Bill was sent to Congress. It's still sitting there while Americans go bankrupt and suffer. I realize there are those who have no ambition and won't work. But there are more that are completely stressed out from searching the job lines for a decent job to replace the one they lost. It's just plain common sense that the more people who are working and earning a salary, the more they spend on goods and services. What a pitiful, unnecessary situation! NO THANKS, no Repub!!!

    March 30, 2014 10:05 am at 10:05 am |
  17. Keith

    So, the 1% really decides who we get to vote for, it has little to do with any Democratic process.

    March 30, 2014 10:07 am at 10:07 am |
  18. Tom

    Nothing like the annual election ritual of grovelling and kowtowing to your owners.

    March 30, 2014 10:14 am at 10:14 am |
  19. dgsdg

    oh snap

    March 30, 2014 10:27 am at 10:27 am |
  20. Tommy in Wilton

    GOP hopefulls courting billionaires? Imagine that~

    March 30, 2014 10:29 am at 10:29 am |
  21. Put America First

    Maybe this time republicans will get more money from the 1%. Last time the 1% gave more to Obama than Romney. They seem to be pretty good a picking the winners.

    March 30, 2014 10:32 am at 10:32 am |
  22. GOP (Greed over People)

    No real surprise here. The GOP have been in the back pockets of wealthy donors for more than a century. Did you expect something different?

    March 30, 2014 10:36 am at 10:36 am |
  23. wendel

    republicans sucking up.

    March 30, 2014 10:38 am at 10:38 am |
  24. Steve

    They are courting George Soros and Al Gore?

    March 30, 2014 10:39 am at 10:39 am |
  25. miscreantsall

    Separation of church and State is forever gone.

    "Welcome to the new world, new world"

    And the world continues to spiral down into the dark abyss of the biggest worm hole in the universe.

    And the beat goes on………..

    Carry on!

    March 30, 2014 10:45 am at 10:45 am |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8