HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Republicans trying to regain the majority in the U.S. Senate have the candidate they want in Pennsylvania. Now they just need David McCormick to run.
Almost since he lost last year’s Republican Senate primary, McCormick has floated the possibility that he might again seek the party’s nomination for U.S. Senate, this time to challenge three-term Democratic Sen. Bob Casey. to dawn.
McCormick has appeared at local party events, raised money for Republican candidates, hired staff, done a publicity tour for his new book and made the rounds of conservative podcasts. In short, everything a candidate could do, except announce his candidacy.
“If Dave McCormick doesn’t run at this time, it will be the biggest sham in Pennsylvania political history,” said Vince Galko, a Republican campaign strategist from northeastern Pennsylvania.
Republicans may have done just about everything they could think of to entice McCormick to join a 2024 ticket that could feature a rematch of Donald Trump and President Joe Biden in a top battleground state crucial to both the control of the White House and for the control of the White House. Senate.
If McCormick is being cautious, perhaps it’s because the former hedge fund CEO spent a small fortune of his own money only to narrowly lose in a crowded and nail-biting primary.
For a party that has struggled — both nationally and in Pennsylvania — with nominating polarizing and deeply flawed candidates for Senate, some in Pennsylvania worry that another fringe candidate could win the nomination and embarrass the party again if McCormick doesn’t run for office.
McCormick has talked about running for so long that his stalling has caused headaches in some circles.
“I talked to him a few weeks ago and it sounded like he was going to run, but I don’t know,” said Rob Gleason, a former state Republican Party chairman and McCormick supporter.
McCormick has not publicly discussed his decision-making process and he did not respond to an interview request.
For much of the year, McCormick aides have given a sliding timeline for a decision, including Labor Day at one point, and McCormick’s openness about his musings has effectively frozen the Republican Party’s primary field.
Aides now say a decision is near.
Meanwhile, McCormick has received endorsements from two major Republican Senate donor committees — the National Republican Senate Committee and the Senate Leadership Fund, a super PAC tied to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell — even during a primary.
In recent days, a McCormick ally distributed a letter of support for McCormick that included a who’s who of the party’s top brass, including the state party chairman, the party’s two national committee representatives and 36 of the 67 provincial party chairs.
If McCormick does not run, some party officials are concerned about the quality of available alternatives at this relatively late stage.
“That’s going to be a problem,” said Sam DeMarco, the Allegheny County GOP chairman, who is distributing the letter. “At this point we have no idea who would step down if Dave chose not to participate. But it is clear that the Republican Party of Pennsylvania is playing into the hands of Dave McCormick.”
It’s easy to see why Republicans like McCormick: He has a stellar resume, deep pockets and connections in the worlds of business and politics. Last year he was backed by a super PAC that spent millions from an array of wealthy donors. And Republicans believe he is moderate enough to appeal to the suburbs and stable enough to help other candidates.
Still, it’s easy to see why McCormick might be hesitant to run again: He spent $14 million of his own money to miss out on Trump’s endorsement, losing by 950 votes to Trump-endorsed celebrity heart surgeon Dr. Mehmet Oz.
The state party is less than a year removed from a nationally embarrassing election in which Oz lost to Democrat John Fetterman by 5% — a sizable margin in a battleground state like Pennsylvania — and the party’s far-right gubernatorial candidate lost by 15%.
Publicly, Republicans are trying to portray Biden and Casey as vulnerable. The economy is weak and inflation is high, they say.
But they also acknowledge that it will be difficult to beat Casey. Casey is a mainstay of Democratic politics in Pennsylvania, the son of a former two-term governor and the longest-serving Democrat in the Senate from Pennsylvania.
They also know that McCormick will likely face the wild card of having Trump at the top of the Republican ticket.
According to the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll conducted in August, 35% of American adults have a favorable opinion of Trump and 62% have an unfavorable opinion of him. When it comes to Biden, 44% have a favorable opinion of him and 52% an unfavorable opinion.
Trump’s approval ratings aside, he lost the 2020 election in Pennsylvania — even if only by 1% — and then brutally attacked McCormick during the 2022 primaries, at one point calling McCormick the “candidate of special interests and globalists and the Washington establishment’.
McCormick later suggested in his book, published in March, that he missed out on Trump’s support for Oz because he refused to say the 2020 election was stolen.
Some party officials say sharing a ticket with Trump is likely an important consideration for McCormick. Yet there is no sign that Trump and McCormick have talked to each other or resolved any hard feelings, if any.
“I asked McCormick if he was concerned about Trump being the best candidate and he said, ‘not really,’” Gleason said.
Meanwhile, McCormick has suggested to his allies that he will not run without the party’s endorsement in the primaries, a move to avoid spending another fortune on another crowded intraparty contest.
A September 30 state party meeting is approaching, and Republican circles are buzzing with the rumor that McCormick will seek an approval vote there.
The party leadership has long liked McCormick, but the state committee members have been joined in recent years by a number of pro-Trump Republicans – and how they view McCormick’s support is less clear.
“If he’s the candidate and he’s in the race, I don’t know why people wouldn’t support it,” DeMarco said. “If there’s no one else there, I don’t understand how that works.”
AP polls and survey reporter Linley Sanders in Washington contributed to this report. Follow Marc Levy on Twitter: http://twitter.com/timelywriter