Former hedge fund CEO touts small town in key Senate race

LEBANON, Pa. (AP) — As CEO of the world’s largest hedge fund, David McCormick wore suits, lived on Connecticut’s posh Gold Coast, talked about bipartisanship and described China as the most important “bilateral relationship.” the United States.

Now, as a Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania, McCormick wears jeans and casual shirts. It recounts the greatest successes of the right’s culture war attacks on Democrats – paranoia about illegal immigration and the left using the school curriculum to teach a history of America that is “not the America that I know” – and he describes China as an “existential threat”.

For McCormick, spinning the tale of a well-made boy in his hometown and following the politics of Trumpism is central to his candidacy for a first battleground Senate race.

But he faces skepticism – and, as a leading contender, attack ads – that his international business background runs counter to former President Donald Trump’s “America First” governing philosophy and that he is a rowdy political opportunist trying to buy the seat.

Now, instead of naming Wall Street or telling stories about meeting a Chinese CEO, he names small towns and tells stories about growing up in Pennsylvania.

“I baled hay on the family farm. I’ve trimmed Christmas trees,” he recently told listeners seated in folding chairs at folding tables in a wood-panelled room in the back of Heisey’s Diner about 75 miles west of Philadelphia. “I was a bus boy at the local hotel, playing small town sports, football and wrestling, from Shikellamy to Shickshinny, Pottsville, Mount Carmel and Selinsgrove.”

It’s places like these where McCormick tries to convince conservative voters that he should be the Republican flag bearer in a contest to replace incumbent GOP Senator Pat Toomey.

In doing so, McCormick, 56, must navigate a deep primary field as he balances his established Republican credentials with the demands of a loyal Trump base – in a state won by President Joe Biden.

The primary election is May 17.

For Democrats, Pennsylvania may be their best shot at securing a tightly-divided Senate seat. The primary of this party is in the form of a competition among Lt. Governor John Fetterman, State Representative Malcolm Kenyatta and U.S. Representative Conor Lamb.

For Republicans, perhaps the biggest primary prize – an endorsement from Trump – seems unlikely after Trump’s top pick Sean Parnell dropped out of the running in November.

Parnell’s exit opened the doors to McCormick and Mehmet Oz, famous heart surgeon best known as the daytime TV host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and accelerated spending in what may be the most expensive Senate race this year.

Money is a strong point for McCormick.

He’s wealthy enough to pay for his own TV ads, and he’s backed by a super PAC spending millions of dollars — much of it from hedge fund billionaire Ken Griffin — on ads. hammering Oz as too liberal and too Hollywood.

Virtually unknown to voters before declaring his candidacy a few weeks ago, McCormick topped a recent Fox News poll of Pennsylvania GOP primary voters with 24%. Yet nearly a third of respondents are undecided.

Meanwhile, McCormick not only taps deep connections across the world of finance, but politics and government as well.

This is in part thanks to his high-level service in the administration of President George W. Bush. It’s also through his wife, Dina Powell, a Goldman Sachs executive, longtime Republican operative and veteran of the Bush and Trump administrations.

For the past 12 years, McCormick has lived in Connecticut and was a top executive at Bridgewater, notable for his sizable portfolio that catered to Chinese investors investing in China.

This has brought accusations that McCormick is a profiteers and a sale to China.

To counter the carpetbagging angle, McCormick bought a house in Pittsburgh and insists on his education in Pennsylvania. He also talks about his military service: a West Point graduate – the first from his city, he says – and a veteran of the 82nd Airborne Division, winner of the Bronze Star, during the Gulf War.

When it comes to China, McCormick insists his hedge fund experience – he tells an audience of diners it was a ‘financial business’ – makes him uniquely qualified to go ‘together with China’ , and turns the subject to Trump.

“He put us on the right track with China, but then he got his experience,” McCormick told the crowd. “He basically said, ‘I’m a global businessman. And this experience will make me a better president. And for me, it will be the same. This experience will make me a better senator.

In the Bush administration, McCormick handled trade issues. He likes to point out that his tough trade stances have drawn a complaint from the Chinese against Bush himself.

Still, making McCormick the Republican Party nominee for Trump is no small task.

In 2015, McCormick hosted a fundraiser for Jeb Bush, once a competitor for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination ultimately won by Trump. The Oz campaign pounced, saying in an ad, “Wall Street insider David McCormick paid for attacks on Donald Trump.”

Last year, McCormick told a Bloomberg interviewer asking about Trumpism that it was important to acknowledge the frustrated masses that Trump “drawled out.” Then he referred to “the division that has characterized the last four years and the polarization, and I think the president has a certain responsibility, a great responsibility in this respect”.

Meanwhile, McCormick continues to be blanketed with the term “globalist” — a derogatory slur of anti-Semitic origin adopted by Trump and his right-wing allies to conjure up an elite international coterie that doesn’t serve America’s best interests. .

To cement his pro-Trump credentials, McCormick has worked to land endorsements GOP stalwarts, including former Trump Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

McCormick also professes allegiance to America First, saying it has helped the people of the small Pennsylvania town where he grew up. And despite his ties to the wealthy and well-connected, he calls himself an “outsider.”

Trump aside, major campaign issues could turn McCormick’s path, with Russia’s attack on Ukraine rekindling new interest in global affairs.

McCormick – who has a doctorate in international relations from Princeton University – is the liveliest as he talks about how to confront China and Russian President Vladimir Putin, summing up his ideas in bullet points for audiences in restaurants and the restaurants.

Restaurant customer Carol Forster, 69, asked McCormick about an ad linking him to China and seemed pleased with McCormick’s response that he won’t need ‘on-the-job training’ to work. attack China.

She also likes McCormick’s military background — her husband and son served in the US Marine Corps — and seemed inclined to trust McCormick on border, war and international relations issues.

“Knowing he was in the military, I know he has genuine feelings about this and what’s going on with Ukraine,” Forster said.

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