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Marco Rubio’s Tallahassee fundraiser: a keyhole into the “Sheldon Adelson primary”?

It’s been said many times and many ways but in light of the host-committee dynamics behind Marco Rubio‘s April 7 breakfast fundraiser in Tallahassee, it bears repeating: the road to Florida’s 2016 GOP presidential contest may well run through the Las Vegas estate of billionaire casino mogul Sheldon Adelson.

Rubio was reportedly on the outs with the Adelson people after declining an invitation — along with rival and Twitter combatant Sen. Rand Paul, who is derided as an isolationist in some pro-Israel circles — to a 2014 Republican Jewish Coalition dinner in Nevada.

Florida’s junior senator seems to have worked his way back to the inside track toward winning the ultra-hawkish octogenarian’s favor: Among the hosts of Rubio’s upcoming pre-announcement breakfast are two of Adelson’s top proconsuls in Tallahassee.

Lobbyists Nick Iarossi and Scott Ross (also a former executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition) are listed as boosters at the $5,000 level on the invitation to Rubio’s $1,000-a-plate breakfast at the Governors Club next Tuesday. Besides the cash — which he’ll need plenty of to combat the Jeb Bush fundraising juggernaut — their friendly presence, along with that of prominent Florida Jewish pols Adam Hasner  and Ellyn Bogdanoff, suggests that Rubio may have a chance of a Newt Gingrich-style Adelson endowment after all.

The growing Jewish vote in Republican primaries will be a key consideration for both Rubio and Bush, nowhere more so than in Florida.

And as other establishment influencers line up squarely behind Jeb’s candidacy, an ardently pro-Israel tack seems to be a shrewd move which wouldn’t put Rubio too far out of his foreign policy comfort zone.

Rubio was one of the 47 U.S. Senators who penned an open letter warning Iran that any diplomatic advances made with the Obama administration might be quickly undone.

Rubio was quick to correct himself when he nearly said a nuclear strike against Iran should be on the table on Fox News’ The Five on Monday, but given the tenacity with which his rivals are courting Adleson, he can be forgiven the Freudian slip.

Written By

Ryan Ray covers politics and public policy in North Florida and across the state. He has also worked as a legislative researcher and political campaign staffer. He can be reached at

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