Former hedge fund executive David McCormick entered Pennsylvania’s chaotic Republican Senate primary last week with a retinue of Donald Trump allies by his side, but a history of mild but embarrassing criticism of the former president in his past.
Mehmet Oz, the famous TV doctor, joined the race weeks earlier with tenuous ties to the state, but with Fox News Sean Hannity spoke privately about his candidacy.
So far, neither candidate has sidelined Trump after his first choice for the seat, Sean Parnell, dropped out amid a scandal. Worried about backing a losing candidate, Trump is likely to withhold another endorsement until he has a clearer picture of who is most likely to win, more than half a dozen Republicans close to him have said. and McCormick at NBC News.
Trump has friends on all sides of the race, said a Republican strategist plugged into the political orbit of former presidents. All signs point to him letting things unfold and develop further before seriously considering making an endorsement.
The race in Pennsylvania, where Sen. Pat Toomey, a Republican, is not seeking another term, is expected to be one of the most competitive in 2022 as both sides battle for control of the Senate. Democrats have a crowded primary themselves.
As of now, Trump is unconvinced that McCormick is the right Republican and has expressed doubts about his ability to break through with blue-collar voters in Pennsylvania, said a person who recently discussed the race with the former president. Oz, meanwhile, has made frequent appearances on Fox News. And Fox Newss Hannity has touted Oz’s candidacy in conversations with Trump, according to two people close to the former president. A Fox News spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment.
Trump is intrigued by the national star power of Oz and sees it as the best bet at this point in the race, said the person who recently discussed the race with him.
But that wasn’t enough to earn approval. A source close to McCormicks’ campaign who also has ties to Trumpworld said Trump learned of Oz’s last place in a recent GOP poll and was surprised by the poor performance.
Inside the McCormick campaign, advisers don’t believe Trump will endorse anyone until he has a clearer picture of who is favored.
The former president spoke with Republican allies and strategists, probing them on the strengths and vulnerabilities of the various candidates. With Trump’s backing, Parnell had been the early front-runner but dropped out of the race late last year after losing a custody battle over his three children. If Trump rushes to another endorsement only to see it backfire, he risks undermining his status as a GOP kingmaker.
My strong feeling is that he is very likely to stay neutral at least for now, the person close to the McCormick campaign and Trumpworld said. I don’t think they want to mess up twice. It is an extremely important Senate seat; it’s not one to miss.
Most Republicans interviewed for this story requested anonymity to speak candidly about private discussions involving Trump and his friends with him and McCormick. Trump spokesman Taylor Budowich would only confirm that Trump is very interested in the race.
Pennsylvania is a critical part of the MAGA ticket in 2022 and President Donald J. Trump continues to pay close attention to the race, he said, using the shorthand for the slogan Trumps Make America Great Again.
A McCormick campaign official acknowledged that an endorsement from Trump would be welcome. The Ozs campaign did not respond to a request for comment.
The Republican contest quickly becomes expensive. Oz, which entered a week after Parnell’s bailout, has already spent $3.9 million on advertising, according to ad tracking firm AdImpact. McCormick is catching up quickly, with $3.2 million spent on advertising through Friday. Another GOP hopeful, Carla Sands, ambassador to Denmark under the Trump administration, who points to her own ties to her presidency, spent $1.8 million. Real estate developer Jeff Bartos, conservative commentator Kathy Barnette and Philadelphia attorney George Bochetto are also running in the primary.
Bartos, who has adopted a hyperlocal strategy and has been familiar to grassroots activists since running for lieutenant governor in 2018, finished first in the recent straw poll.
A potential equalizer as they all vie for Trump’s affection is that none of the leading candidates have made claims debunked by Trump that the 2020 election was stolen from him at the heart of their campaigns. Parnell had called for a forensic audit of the results in Pennsylvania, where Trump narrowly lost to President Joe Biden.
We won the state, Trump falsely claimed in a welcome video that aired ahead of a debate last week for GOP Senate candidates in Lawrence County. This is something I dispute. I will continue to dispute it.
Sometimes the vote counter is more important than the candidate, Trump added, and we can’t let that happen again. They need to get tougher and smarter.
The election issue barely came up during the debate, which McCormick, Oz and Sands ignored.
Pressed during an interview last week with NBC Philadelphia, McCormick said he believed there were many irregularities in the 2020 election results in Pennsylvania, but President Biden is the president and we need to go forward. He dodged follow-up questions to find out if he thought the result was fair.
Along with acknowledging that Biden is the president, McCormick also said he believes Trump bears some responsibility for the 2021 attack on the Capitol led by pro-Trump rioters trying to block certification of Bidens victory. .
Such remarks could upset Trump and his MAGA base, jeopardizing any endorsement. McCormick’s hedge fund experience, which involved Chinese investments from which he spent the early days of his candidacy distancing himself, also runs counter to economic nationalism and Trump-style populism.
But McCormick has secured a number of high-level endorsements from Trump’s political network. His wife, Dina Powell, who served as deputy national security adviser in the Trump administration, has been a visible part of the campaign. Former Trump campaign and White House advisers Hope Hicks and Stephen Miller are among McCormicks’ advisers. Parnell endorsed it the day he entered the race. Trump’s former press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, now a candidate for governor of Arkansas, also backs him.
None of this prompted Trump to quickly endorse McCormick. Trump’s take on the McCormick campaign, said the person who recently discussed the race with him, is that I don’t care how many people they hire who they think are my friends.
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