HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Republicans trying to take back 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 the GOP Senate primary last year, McCormick has floated the possibility that he would seek the party’s nomination for U.S. Senate again, this time to challenge three-term Democratic Sen. Bob Casey.
McCormick has shown up at local party events, raised money for Republican candidates, hired staff, gone on a promotional tour for his new book and toured on conservative podcasts. In short, everything a candidate could do – except announce their candidacy.
“If Dave McCormick doesn’t run at this point, it would be the biggest head fake in Pennsylvania political history,” said Vince Galko, a Republican campaign strategist based in northeastern Pennsylvania.
Republicans may have done just about everything they could think of to convince McCormick to join a 2024 ticket that could include a rematch between Donald Trump and President Joe Biden in a battleground state for both white control The Senate is crucial to both the House and the government.
If McCormick is 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 closely contested primary.
For a party that has struggled – both nationally and in Pennsylvania – with nominating polarizing and deeply flawed candidates for the Senate, some in Pennsylvania fear that another fringe candidate could win the nomination and embarrass the party again if McCormick is not running.
McCormick has been talking about the possibility of running for so long that his stalling has raised eyebrows in some circles.
“I talked to him a few weeks ago, it sounded like he was running, but I don’t know,” said Rob Gleason, a former state GOP chairman and McCormick supporter.
McCormick has not discussed his decision-making process publicly and did not respond to an interview request.
The Democratic Party has treated McCormick as the de facto Republican candidate, attacking his business record, his opposition to abortion rights and suggestions that he still lives on Connecticut’s “Gold Coast” – in a $16 million mansion, no less – , where he spent more than a dozen years at hedge fund Bridgewater Associates. McCormick, a Pennsylvania native, insists he lives in Pittsburgh, in a home he bought there in early 2022.
For most of the year, McCormick aides have set a rolling timeline for a decision, including Labor Day at one point, and McCormick’s openness about his musings has all but frozen the GOP primary field.
Aid workers now say a decision is imminent.
Meanwhile, McCormick has received pledges of support from two major Senate GOP donor committees — the National Republican Senatorial Committee and the Senate Leadership Fund, a super PAC tied to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell — even in a primary.
In recent days, a McCormick ally has circulated a letter of support for McCormick that included a high-ranking who’s who of the party, including the state party chairman, the party’s two national committee representatives and 36 of the party’s 67 party chairs district.
If McCormick doesn’t run, some party officials are concerned at this relatively late stage about the quality of the alternatives available.
“This is going to be a problem,” said Allegheny County GOP Chairman Sam DeMarco, who is distributing the letter. “Right now we have no idea who would show up if Dave didn’t run. But it is clear that the Pennsylvania Republican Party is targeting Dave McCormick.”
It’s easy to see why Republicans like McCormick: He has a glittering resume, deep pockets and connections in the world of business and politics. He was backed last year by a super PAC that donated millions from a list of wealthy donors. And Republicans believe he is moderate enough to appeal to suburbanites and stable enough to help other candidates get elected.
Still, it’s easy to see why McCormick might be cautious about running again: He spent $14 million of his own money to miss Trump’s endorsement, winning by 950 votes against Trump-backed prominent heart surgeon Dr. Losing 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 significant margin in a battleground state like Pennsylvania – and the party’s far-right gubernatorial candidate lost by 15%.
In public, Republicans are trying to portray Biden and Casey as vulnerable. It is said that the economy is weak and inflation is high.
But they also acknowledge that it will be difficult to beat Casey. Casey is a champion of Pennsylvania’s Democratic politics, the son of a former two-term governor and the longest-serving Democrat in the Pennsylvania Senate.
They also know that McCormick will likely have to contend with the wild card of having Trump at the top of the GOP rankings.
According to a poll conducted in August by the Associated Press and the NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, 35% of U.S. adults have a positive opinion of Trump and 62% have a negative opinion of him. When it comes to Biden, 44% have a positive opinion of him and 52% have a negative opinion.
Trump’s approval ratings aside, he lost the 2020 election in Pennsylvania – albeit by only 1% – and then viciously attacked McCormick during the 2022 primary, at one point calling McCormick a “candidate of the special interests and globalists and the Washington establishment.”
McCormick later suggested in his book published in March that he lost 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. Still, there is no sign that Trump and McCormick have spoken or resolved any hostilities, if any.
“I asked McCormick if he was worried about Trump being at the top of the list and he said, ‘Not really,'” Gleason said.
Meanwhile, McCormick has suggested to his allies that he will not run in the primary without the party’s endorsement, a move to prevent him from spending another fortune on another crowded intraparty contest.
A Sept. 30 state party meeting is approaching, and there is talk in GOP circles that McCormick will seek an approval vote there.
Party leadership has long liked McCormick, but rank-and-file state committee members have been joined by a number of pro-Trump Republicans in recent years — and how they would view a McCormick endorsement is less clear.
“If he’s the candidate and he’s in the race, I don’t know why people wouldn’t support him,” DeMarco said. “If there’s no one else, I don’t understand how this works.”
AP polling and survey reporter Linley Sanders in Washington contributed to this report. Follow Marc Levy on Twitter at