Blame These 3 Billionaires for Drawn-Out GOP Primary
They're contributing millions to candidates that aren't Romney
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 12, 2012 11:40 AM CST
Gov. Jon Huntsman greets supporters at the governor's mansion Tuesday, Nov. 4, 2008, in Salt Lake City. His father, Jon Huntsman Sr., stands behind his son.   (AP Photo/Douglas C. Pizac)

(Newser) – If you can't believe how many Republican presidential candidates are still in the race and you fear the possibility of a drawn-out primary that leads to a lower chance of unseating President Obama ... blame these guys. Politico reports on the three billionaires who are contributing millions to groups attacking Mitt Romney or backing non-Romney candidates:

  • Sheldon Adelson: This Las Vegas casino mogul gave $5 million to a super PAC supporting Newt Gingrich; he may give even more. The PAC is spending millions to run anti-Romney ads in South Carolina. Adelson, who has known Gingrich since the 1990s, has attributed his support to "loyalty."

  • Foster Friess: This Wyoming investor won't say how much he's given, but confirms that he is a major supporter of a super PAC backing Rick Santorum, who he believes is "the most electable candidate." The PAC spent $537,000 campaigning for Santorum in Iowa, compared to the $22,000 spent by Santorum's campaign itself.
  • Jon Huntsman Sr.: Not surprisingly, his millions have reportedly gone to a super PAC backing his son; they have also appeared on stage together.
Operatives say that, without the millions coming from these three and their associates, the Gingrich, Huntsman, and Santorum campaigns may have already fallen apart—an idea that illustrates the fact that, thanks to 2010's federal court rulings, just one deep-pocketed backer can sustain an entire presidential campaign. Some establishment Republicans are not happy with the billionaire donors, and have even threatened revenge. Others, however, say that an extended primary could actually help the GOP, as the Clinton-Obama battle in 2008 helped the Democrats.