Army veteran and former Bridgewater CEO David McCormick officially launched his Senate campaign against Democratic incumbent Bob Casey on Thursday, a boon for the GOP establishment that had looked to recruit a top-tier candidate in the swing state and to avoid the sort of bitter primary fight that McCormick narrowly lost a year ago.
McCormick's announcement came at an evening rally in Pittsburgh, during which the Republican lamented an "America in decline" due to the "failed leadership of Joe Biden." McCormick went on to pitch himself as a "combat veteran, a successful businessman, and a seventh-generation Pennsylvanian" who will "shake up Washington."
"My opponent was born to run for political office. I was born to shake things up," McCormick said. "I'm the only candidate in this race who can change Washington."
The campaign launch comes roughly one year after McCormick lost a contentious primary battle against celebrity doctor Mehmet Oz by less than 1,000 votes. While that race divided Republican leaders—former president Donald Trump backed Oz, while McCormick received endorsements from Sen. Ted Cruz (R., Texas) and former secretary of state Mike Pomepo—McCormick is entering his second Senate bid with widespread support from party leaders.
National Republican Senatorial Committee chairman Steve Daines (R., Mont.), for example, endorsed McCormick, saying in a statement on Thursday that the "combat veteran and Pennsylvania job creator" has "done a remarkable job of unifying the grassroots of Pennsylvania." Republican state lawmaker and failed gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano, who contemplated his own Senate run, has also backed McCormick and urged Pennsylvania Republicans to "unify" around the candidate. Pennsylvania's entire Republican congressional delegation is also endorsing McCormick, according to a campaign strategist.
Republicans hope a clear primary field will help them amass resources for a race that is likely to become one of the most expensive in the country. Democrats have already identified Casey's seat as one the party must hold to maintain a Senate majority in 2024, while Republicans see the state as a major pickup opportunity.
The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has signaled that it views McCormick as a threat. Months before McCormick's announcement, the committee contended that Mastriano would "continue looming over Republicans in Pennsylvania" and worked to tie McCormick to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) and "the establishment."
The committee has also paid tens of thousands of dollars to an opposition researcher who falsely presented herself as a journalist to McCormick’s acquaintances in an attempt to dig up damaging information on him, the Washington Free Beacon reported in August.
Two days before McCormick's campaign launch, Pennsylvania’s Democratic governor, Josh Shapiro, announced the state will automatically register to vote those who obtain or renew their driver's license, a move that state Republicans blasted as a "unilateral action on the eve of what is likely to be a hotly contested and close election." But McCormick's campaign downplayed the change, saying it does not anticipate a "huge impact."
"The days where an expanded electorate helps the Democrats is probably over," a campaign strategist said. "So from our standpoint, we want everyone who can register to register, and we want to go out and get their votes."