As Sheldon Adelson listens from the front row, Ron Paul supporters flood his special evening caucus session in Las Vegas.
LAS VEGAS -- When Sheldon Adelson, the billionaire backer of Newt Gingrich, arranged to have a special after-hours voting session to accommodate him at Saturday's Nevada caucuses, Ron Paul supporters were convinced a conspiracy was afoot.
But the Paul army had the last laugh.
They flooded the evening caucus at the Adelson Educational Campus, a private school in the Las Vegas suburbs. They stood to testify in the most alarming terms. And in the end, Paul got more than three times as many votes as Gingrich, who came in third.
Adelson and his wife, Miriam, sat patiently near the front as caucus-goers, the great majority of them Paul supporters, stood to speak for more than an hour. He leaned his wrist on a cane while she checked her iPhone. Approached by this reporter, he barked, "No comments," and his bodyguards politely indicated that rule would be enforced.
The caucus commenced in the packed auditorium with a few speakers for Gingrich. First was a man who said he favored Gingrich because "he's done it before," even if "we may not like his personal issues -- he's been through three marriages."
The next speaker said he was backing Gingrich because "I'm very afraid of Mitt Romney." The reason, he said: "I'm concerned about if Romney gets elected having the most important position in the United States being a member of the LDS church."
And then there was this guy: "The Bilderberg Group is behind Mitt Romney."
Those were just the Gingrich speakers. Next came about 25 passionate speakers for Paul. In short order, the scene in the auditorium began to feel like a revival meeting for anti-government paranoiacs.
The first one accused the government of "genocide." Another complained that Paul was the victim of media bias, as evidenced by the fact that in the GOP debates, "When they go on Ron Paul the lighting's dimmer." Another accused the government of "using our own men as guinea pigs."
As Gingrich, across town, was vowing bitterly to continue his campaign, a Paul supporter was testifying: "Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney run the two-legged race together at Bohemian Grove! There's not a bit of difference between those two puppets! I got one word to describe my support for Ron Paul, and that is: End the Fed!"
A few people then spoke for Romney and Rick Santorum. Last was a senior orthodox rabbi, complete with hat and beard, who thanked the GOP for the post-sundown caucus: "I didn't realize there were so many orthodox Jews and Seventh-Day Adventists in Las Vegas!" he said.
The night caucus was supposed to be only for observers of a Saturday Sabbath, and attendees were required to sign a form swearing that they were "precluded from participating" in the morning caucus "because of my religious beliefs."
The Paul campaign decided this was unconstitutional and unenforceable (they were probably right). They robo-called their supporters earlier in the day, informing them that if they missed their morning caucus they could go at night. Many of those who showed up adopted an expansive interpretation of "religious beliefs," saying, for example, that they were working religiously, or praying in their sleep.
When the votes were finally cast, the totals were: 183 for Paul (58 percent), 61 for Romney (19 percent), 57 for Gingrich (18 percent) and 16 for Santorum (5 percent).
And that is how the great Sheldon Adelson Jewish conspiracy to steal the Nevada caucuses from Ron Paul worked out.
Image credit: Associated Press/Jason Bean
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Molly Ball is Time magazine’s national political correspondent and a former staff writer at The Atlantic.