Trump remains on the sidelines in Pennsylvania Senate race – for now

Former hedge fund executive David McCormick got into Pennsylvania’s Astonishing Republican Senate Primary last week with an entourage of Donald Trump’s allies on his side but a history of mild if inconvenient criticism of his past former president.

Mehmet Oz, famous TV doctor, entered the race last week has thin ties to the state but Fox News’ Sean Hannity has spoken privately about his candidacy.

So far, no candidate has drawn Trump to the sidelines after his first choice for the seat, Sean Parnell, dropped out of school in the middle of a scandal. Worried about backing a losing candidate, Trump intends to withhold another endorsement until he has a clearer idea of ​​who is most likely to win, more than half a dozen party members. Republicans are close to him and McCormick told NBC News.

“Trump has friends on all sides of the race,” said a Republican strategist familiar with the former president’s political trajectory. “All indications are that he lets things unfold and develop more before seriously considering giving an endorsement.”

The race in Pennsylvania, where Senator Pat Toomey, a Republican, is not seeking another term, is expected to one of the most competitive of 2022 as both parties vie for control of the Senate. The Democrats have a crowded primary of their own.

For now, Trump doesn’t believe McCormick is the right Republican and has expressed doubts about his ability to infiltrate Pennsylvania’s blue-collar voters, one of whom recently discussed the race with the former said the president. Oz, meanwhile, has appeared regularly on Fox News. And Fox News’ 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 Oz’s “national star power” and sees him as a better bet at this stage of the race, said the person who recently discussed the race with him.

But that’s still not enough to earn endorsements. A source close to McCormick’s campaign, who also has ties to Trumpworld, said that Trump was aware of the single, final Oz polling result. recent poll of GOP straw and was surprised by the poor performance.

Inside the McCormick campaign, advisers do not believe Trump will endorse anyone until he has a clearer picture of who is supported.

The former president spoke to allies and Republican strategists, telling them the strengths and weaknesses of the different candidates. With Trump’s backing, Parnell used to be an early finisher but left the race late last year after losing a custody battle involving his three children. If Trump rushes into another endorsement only to find it counterproductive, he risks cutting his status as a GOP producer.

“My strong sense is that he is very likely to stay neutral at least for now,” said the person close to the McCormick and Trumpworld campaigns. “I don’t think they want to mess up twice. This is a hugely important Senate seat; it’s not one to shoot by mistake. “

Most of the Republicans interviewed for this story asked to remain anonymous to speak candidly about private discussions involving Trump and those close to him and McCormick. Trump spokesman Taylor Budowich will only confirm that Trump is very interested in the race.

“Pennsylvania is a big part of the MAGA ticket in 2022 and President Donald J. Trump continues to pay careful attention to the race,” he said, using shorthand for the tagline “Make America Great” come back” by Trump.

A McCormick campaign official acknowledged that Trump’s endorsement would be welcome. Oz’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment.

The Republican campaign is quickly getting expensive. Oz, who joined the week after Parnell bailed, spent $3.9 million on advertising, according to ad tracking company AdImpact. McCormick is catching up quickly, with $3.2 million spent on ads through Friday. Another GOP hopeful, Carla Sands — an ambassador to Denmark in the Trump administration who emphasized her own ties to his presidency — spent $1.8 million. Also running in the primaries are real estate developer Jeff Bartos, conservative commentator Kathy Barnette and Philadelphia attorney George Bochetto.

Bartos, who has run the hyperlocal strategy and is familiar with grassroots activists since the 2018 gubernatorial run, finished first in the recent poll.

One potential balancing act when all are vying for Trump’s affection is that none of the primary candidates have come forward to claim Trump’s denial that the 2020 election has been stolen from center stage. of their election campaigns. Parnell had called for a “forensic examination” results in Pennsylvania, where Trump narrowly lost to President Joe Biden.

“We won the state,” Trump falsely asserted in a welcome video played before a debate last week for the GOP Senate candidates in Lawrence County. “That’s what I’m fighting for. I will continue to argue about it. ”

“Sometimes the polling station is more important than the candidate,” Trump added, “and we can’t let that happen again. They have to become tougher and smarter.”

The issue of elections barely came up in the debate, which McCormick, Oz and Sands ignored.

Pressed in a interview last week Speaking to NBC Philadelphia, McCormick said he believes there are “many irregularities” in Pennsylvania’s 2020 election results but that “President Biden is president, and we need to move forward.” He dodged follow-up questions about whether he believed the outcome was fair.

In addition to acknowledging that Biden is 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 Biden’s confirmation of victory.

Such remarks could go against Trump and his MAGA base, putting any endorsement in jeopardy. McCormick’s hedge fund experience, involving Chinese investments he spent his early days in office away from myself word, also cutting back against Trump-style economic nationalism and populism.

But McCormick offered some high-profile endorsements from Trump’s political network. His wife, Dina Powell, who served as deputy national security adviser in the Trump administration, is a visible part of the campaign. Former Trump campaign aide and White House aides Hope Hicks and Stephen Miller were among McCormick’s advisers. Parnell agree with him the day he entered the race. Former Trump press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, now a candidate for governor in Arkansas, is also backing him.

None of this made Trump quick to endorse McCormick. Trump’s views on the McCormick campaign, who recently discussed the race with him, said, “I don’t care how many people they hire that they think are my friends.” Trump remains on the sidelines in Pennsylvania Senate race – for now

Jake Nichol

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