Analysis: Freshly minted MAGA McCormick running for Casey’s senate seat

Dave McCormick in 2007. (Photo: Wikipedia)

As most people know, 2024 is a major election year, not only because of the presidential race, but for control of Congress. The Democratic majority in the Senate is razor-thin, and Pennsylvania could play a crucial role in holding onto that majority.

Democratic incumbent Bob Casey Jr. is running for reelection. His Republican opponent is Dave McCormick, a multi-millionaire former hedge fund manager who is aiming for his second crack at the Senate. Previously, McCormick ran against Mehmet Oz for the chance to compete with John Fetterman, losing the primary to the celebrity pitchman by less than half a percentage point.

McCormick’s history is an odd one in terms of his political philosophy. He started out as a moderate centrist, but as the years have passed, he’s edged further and further right until recently, where his positions place him firmly in the MAGA camp, with a particular focus on transphobia.

McCormick attended West Point, and earned a PhD in international relations from Princeton University. He worked in the private sector for a few years before joining the George W. Bush administration at a number of cabinet-level posts, starting as Under Secretary of Commerce in 2005, before reentering the private sector in 2009. He ended up being appointed CEO of Bridgewater Associates, one of the world’s largest hedge funds, leaving that post in 2022 for his first run for Senate.

During his time working in the private sector, McCormick took some positions that were relatively supportive of the LGBTQ+ community. In 2013, McCormick joined 131 other Republicans in signing an amicus brief filed at the U.S. Supreme Court supporting the legalization of gay marriage. During his tenure as CEO of Bridgewater Associates, the company’s policy was to fully pay for gender-transition surgery.

However, McCormick’s rightward shift can be traced back to 1996, when the lifelong Democrat switched sides to the GOP. Evidence of McCormick’s growing reputation within the increasingly right-wing Republican Party was seen when, after the 2016 election, he was invited to join Donald Trump’s administration in a number of different posts. He declined.

In 2019, McCormick married his second wife, Dina Powell, an executive with Goldman Sachs who was serving in the Trump administration as Deputy National Security Advisor.

It was during his first campaign for Senate that McCormick’s rightward shift regarding LGBTQ+ issues, particularly trans issues, came on display. It was during his first campaign that he went on record that he opposes federal funding for gender transition surgeries, and is also opposed to transgender girls participating in girls’ competitive sports.

In the current campaign, McCormick has doubled down on the MAGA agenda by partnering with groups like Moms for Liberty and trumpeting endorsements not only by Trump, but by arch-conservatives like Mike Huckabee. He has also been endorsed by, and is receiving fundraising help from far-right super PACs such as Keystone Renewal PAC and Red Senate PAC.

On May 29, McCormick attended a town hall organized by the Northampton County chapter of Moms for Liberty, sharing a stage with Moms for Liberty chapter chair Aly Warner and Trump’s secretary of education, Betsy DeVos.

Moms for Liberty, characterized as an extremist hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, is a group that relentlessly pursues an agenda of banning LGBTQ+ books from school and public libraries, and for pushing discriminatory policies in schools. DeVos gained infamy during her tenure in Trump’s cabinet by removing Title IX safeguards against discrimination put in place by President Barack Obama, and which have only recently been reinstated (and expanded) by the Biden administration—much to Republican outrage.

During the town hall, not only did McCormick rail against “woke ideology” and critical race theory which he claims, “In the pursuit of all these ideological objectives, our school systems have lost touch with the very basis of America, in my opinion.”

Worse, McCormick went on to specifically target trans youth. 

“The very idea that we’d allow biological males to compete with biological females is fundamentally unfair,” McCormick said. “I think it will gut women’s sports and gut Title IX.”

Here, however, McCormick is being disingenuous. The White House’s reinstated Title IX rules, which will take effect on Aug. 1, do not require schools to permit transgender students to participate in women’s sports, leaving it to individual schools to determine policy on a case-by-case basis.

In fact virulent, dishonest transphobia is apparently becoming a major campaign tactic for McCormick. When Bob Casey announced on June 6 he had secured a $400,000 grant for the Mazzoni Center — a local LGBTQ+ health and wellness center — McCormick immediately posted a response on his Facebook page, saying, “Bob Casey doesn’t have a single major accomplishment—and now he’s bragging about directing our tax dollars to sex-change services for minors. Casey is radically out of step with Pennsylvania.”

This statement is straight out of the MAGA handbook of faux outrage, disinformation and transphobic panic. The grant will actually be used for improved security and much-needed upgrades in machines and medical technology.

McCormick is following the Republican playbook for spreading disinformation on a host of issues, as displayed on his campaign website. In his position statements, he pushes various untruths about inflation and the economy, about immigration and how immigrants are getting a free ride on Pennsylvania taxpayers’ dime, blaming Biden for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the growth of violent crime (it’s actually down dramatically), accusing Casey of supporting abortion up until the moment of birth, and blaming gun violence on liberal prosecutors. All disinformation, disingenuousness, or outright lies.

McCormick is also facing accusations of being a carpetbagger, an issue that helped derail Oz’s campaign two years ago. While it’s not surprising that a person of McCormick’s considerable wealth would accumulate a wide range of assets, in terms of investments and property, the composition of that portfolio is the issue. It is estimated that McCormick and his wife own between $24 and $120 million in properties in Connecticut, New York, Pennsylvania, Texas and Colorado, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Charges of carpetbaggery stem from the fact McCormick owns a home in Westport, Connecticut, where his children go to school, and which served as his primary residence prior to his political campaigns.

McCormick is apparently aware of how the carpetbagger label hurt Oz’s campaign, and so has recently taken steps to decrease his vulnerability on the issue. In 2022, he sold a home in Fairfield, Connecticut and purchased a house in Pittsburgh. In 2023, he also sold his Manhattan condo for $13 million. He has also taken steps to modify his investment portfolio to take on a more Pennsylvania-friendly appearance. The Daily Beast recently published an extensive exposé on how McCormick has been dumping various out-of-state investments in favor of a Pennsylvania-based fund. Daily Beast also reported how McCormick has had to file numerous corrected or amended reports with the Federal Election Commission in order to update his financial disclosure forms.

In the final analysis, McCormick’s willingness to push an extremist right-wing narrative has made him a favorite of the MAGA political network. In addition to being supported by the ultra-conservative Keystone Renewal and Red Senate super pacs, he is affiliated with such groups as 2024 Thune Republican Senate Victory, Battlefield Fund 2023, Reclaim the Majority (based in Alabama), and Senate Path to Victory 2024 (also based in Alabama), among several others based in Virginia and Texas.

At presstime, McCormick’s campaign has not responded to requests for comment.

Despite widespread support for McCormick in the MAGA community, recent polling shows Casey with a comfortable lead. In a poll by Marist College released June 6, Casey leads McCormick by a 52-46 margin. Previous polls have had Casey consistently leading by anywhere from 2 to 8 points.

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