NRSC Banks on Dave McCormick to Run for Senate in Pennsylvania

Dave McCormick during his Senatorial run on May 17, 2022 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jeff Swensen/Getty Images)

Happy Wednesday! When can we return to the good ol’ days when the only time a president faced arrest was for speeding in a horse-drawn carriage?

Up to Speed

  • A federal grand jury in Washington indicted former President Donald Trump Tuesday on four criminal charges related to his alleged attempts to overturn his 2020 presidential election loss to Joe Biden. Trump, who is slated to appear in federal court Thursday, was the sole defendant charged in the 45-page indictment unsealed Tuesday, though six co-conspirators are cited in the court document as having worked alongside the former president to try and subvert the 2020 election results. “The attack on our nation’s Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, was an unprecedented assault on the seat of American democracy. As described in the indictment, it was fueled by lies—lies by the defendant, targeted at obstructing the bedrock function of the U.S. government,” Special Counsel Jack Smith said in a brief press conference Tuesday evening in which he took no questions.
  • The Republican National Committee will reveal its criteria for the second Republican presidential primary debate, according to Politico. To qualify, candidates must receive at least 3 percent support in the requisite mix of national and early state polls, compared to only 1 percent for the first debate. The unique donor threshold has also been increased from 40,000 to 50,000.
  • After considering a Senate run against Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, Republican Rep. Tom Tiffany said in a Tuesday statement he plans to run for reelection to the House instead. “While Tammy Baldwin is vulnerable due to her record as a rubber stamp for President Biden, I can make the greatest impact continuing to serve the great people of Wisconsin in the House of Representatives,” Tiffany said.
  • After being hospitalized with an undisclosed medical issue, New Jersey Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver, 71, died Tuesday, her family announced in a statement. Oliver had been serving as acting governor while Gov. Phil Murphy was on an out-of-state family vacation. “When I selected her to be my running mate in 2017, Lt. Gov. Oliver was already a trailblazer in every sense of the word,” Murphy said on Tuesday. “It was the best decision I ever made.”
  • North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein’s gubernatorial campaign lost $50,000 to a scam. In a campaign finance filing late last week, a $50,438.77 expense was identified as a “fraudulent wire transfer payment.” On Monday, campaign spokeswoman Kate Frauenfelder said, “A campaign vendor fell victim to a sophisticated scam.” Stein is currently the lone Democratic candidate in the state’s 2024 governor race. According to the filing, Stein’s campaign has $8.2 million cash on hand—more than all his Republican opponents combined.
  • Senior aides to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis oversaw the campaign’s laundering of incendiary videos produced by their staff through anonymous Twitter accounts, according to Semafor. One, a meme-filled video opposing Donald Trump, featured a fascist symbol; another took aim at the former president’s past comments supportive of LGBT rights. The videos originated from an encrypted messaging app channel overseen by DeSantis campaign officials. The channel was titled, “War Room Creative Ideas.”
  • While President Joe Biden has the backing of 64 percent of likely Democratic voters in his party’s primary, his support is “a mile wide and an inch deep,” according to the New York Times. Of those who plan to vote for him in the general election, 30 percent surveyed in a New York Times/Siena College poll released this week hope Democrats nominate someone else, and only 20 percent of Democrats would be “enthusiastic” if Biden were the party’s nominee. Though Biden’s approval rating has recovered from his nadir of 37 percent last July, per FiveThirtyEight’s polling average, it hasn’t moved much in the last ten months and continues to hover in the low 40s.
  • Ron DeSantis says he will consider a national ban of the social media app TikTok if he’s elected president. “I am inclined to not want TikTok in the United States,” said DeSantis in an interview with the Wall Street Journal. “I think it’s creating a security vulnerability for us. I think they are mining a lot of data.” And in another sign he’s trying to reorient his struggling campaign away from social issues, DeSantis also said he would try to oust Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell before his term ends in 2026 and would support rules governing how the Fed sets interest rates.

NRSC Pleads for a Dave McCormick Rerun in Pennsylvania

Speaking before an audience of deep-pocketed donors in Pittsburgh on May 24, Republican Sen. Steve Daines of Montana made a blanket plea: If you know Dave McCormick and his wife, Dina Powell, call them directly and “encourage” him to take on Democratic Sen. Bob Casey in 2024, according to two people familiar with his remarks.

“Beg!” an audience member called out, eliciting laughter from the Senate GOP campaign chairman and a tongue-in-cheek response agreeing that the audience members should, in fact, “beg” McCormick to run for Senate this cycle. A former hedge fund CEO, McCormick narrowly lost last year’s Senate GOP primary to celebrity television host Dr. Mehmet Oz, who went on to lose the general election to Democrat John Fetterman.

Pittsburgh-area donor Rob Kania, who attended the National Republican Senatorial Committee fundraiser with Daines, says pro-McCormick sentiment is widespread in Republican circles in Pennsylvania ahead of his widely anticipated 2024 Senate campaign, though a timeline for his announcement remains unclear. 

“He’s done a really, really good job staying visible, staying in Pittsburgh. He’s been around, he’s hosted events,” Kania tells The Dispatch. “Even the Oz people are hoping Dave will run.”

In recent months McCormick has laid the groundwork for another statewide run, crisscrossing the state on a book tour, meeting with local Republican groups, and launching a new political action committee dedicated to helping down-ballot candidates and boosting Republican early and mail-in voting efforts.

“Dave McCormick has been doing everything that one would do if one were looking to run for the Senate,” says Sam DeMarco, chairman of the Allegheny County Republican Party.

That’s good news for Daines, who has put a primer on recruiting deep-pocketed candidates he believes will be viable in a general election against seasoned Democratic incumbents. (McCormick’s hedge fund background fits the bill.) So far Daines has succeeded in wooing his preferred Republican Senate candidates in a number of must-win states, including businessman Tim Sheehy in Montana and Gov. Jim Justice in West Virginia.

Republican operatives in Washington are hoping McCormick will join that list of recruits soon. As he continues to mull his decision, McCormick’s got one key ally on lock: the NRSC. “It feels like they’re clearing the field for him,” Kania adds.

The Politics of Indictments

In light of Donald Trump’s latest federal indictment, our colleagues at The Collision newsletter examine how the former president has been able to weather these legal storms and maintain his top spot in the Republican presidential primary. Here’s a sample:

The last time Trump was indicted by a federal grand jury—a mere two months ago—the former president made this astute observation: “I mean, the only good thing about it is, it’s driven my poll numbers way up. Can you believe this?”

It’s not quite correct that Trump’s numbers went “way” up after the June 8 indictment, but that’s only because his polling had already seen an enduring boost in the days following his March 30 indictment in New York on business fraud charges. That case, brought by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, seemed to jump-start Trump’s flagging campaign: In the RealClear Politics average of national primary polls, Trump jumped 10 points between March 20 and April 20. Since the beginning of April, he’s not been below 50 percent. And, yes, Trump even saw a little boost in his polling in the days after his more legally serious June indictment over his mishandling of classified documents and obstruction of justice.

There’s reason to think Trump’s poll numbers in the Republican primary won’t go down again with this latest indictment. The latest poll from the New York Times and Siena College lays it bare: The vast majority of likely Republican primary voters say they don’t believe Trump has done anything wrong—not with his handling of classified documents and not with his actions regarding the 2020 election.

Read the whole thing here, and don’t forget to subscribe to The Collision.

Eyes on the Trail

  • Airwolf. The super PAC supporting Nikki Haley has booked millions of dollars in television advertising to run for the next nine weeks in two early primary states, intensifying the former South Carolina governor’s longshot bid for the Republican presidential nomination. SFA Fund Inc. announced this week the group would spend $7.2 million in Iowa and $6.2 million in New Hampshire, host of the first and second contests, respectively, on the GOP nominating calendar. Its 30-second spot, which began airing Tuesday, highlights Haley’s foreign policy credentials as a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, with a focus on the candidate’s proposals to combat China. Backed by wealthy Republican donors hoping to boost Haley’s standing in the race—she registers in the low single digits in most polls—SFA Fund Inc. entered July with $17 million in cash on hand. Meanwhile, the super PAC supporting rival longshot candidate, Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, has reserved $40 million in advertising, to begin airing this fall.

Notable and Quotable

“It has nothing to do with me and everything to do with my last name.”

—Hunter Biden on his relationship with Chinese businessman Che Feng, reported by the New York Post, Tuesday, August 1

Correction 8/4/23: This piece originally misspelled Allegheny County.

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