Pennsylvania Republicans Court Bridgewater CEO and Army Veteran for Senate Race

Republican leaders are pressing David McCormick to jump into the race to replace Republican Pat Toomey

David McCormick (YouTube Screenshot)
November 4, 2021

The Republican primary in next year's Pennsylvania Senate race may get more interesting, with Politico reporting that Republican leaders in the state are pressing the hedge fund CEO and Army veteran David McCormick to jump into the race.

McCormick, a Pennsylvania native, is the CEO of the Connecticut-based hedge fund behemoth Bridgewater Associates. The West Point graduate and retired Army Ranger went on to serve as CEO of the Pittsburgh-based software company FreeMarkets before selling it in 2004. After a stint in the George W. Bush administration, McCormick took the helm of Bridgewater Associates in 2019.

Republican leaders are turning to McCormick out of a concern that the current candidates—the military veteran Sean Parnell, the businessman Jeff Bartos, and conservative commentator Kathy Barnette—are not strong enough to prevail in a key swing state. President Joe Biden won Pennsylvania in 2020 after former president Donald Trump narrowly won it in 2016. Republican senator Pat Toomey was reelected in 2016 with a constituency that differed from Trump's: He saw more success with suburban voters than the former president and less in Pennsylvania's rural areas. The challenge for Republicans will be to cobble together support from both groups.

Though Mitt Romney's shellacking in 2012 has made Republicans skittish about running wealthy businessmen, Republican Glenn Youngkin’s victory over Democrat Terry McAuliffe in the Virginia gubernatorial race on Tuesday is likely to heighten their appeal. While many thought that Youngkin's wealth—he is the multimillionaire former head of the private equity behemoth Carlyle Group—would be a vulnerability, his victory suggests that swing state voters are open to candidates with executive experience at a time of economic uncertainty. McCormick would be the latest entrant into what is already a contested Republican primary in the race to succeed Toomey, who is retiring.

Prior to joining Bridgewater, McCormick served in the Treasury Department and on the National Security Council in the Bush administration, where he worked to compel China's compliance with international rules on currency manipulation. A veteran of Operation Desert Storm, for which he was awarded a Bronze Star, McCormick remains a major donor to veterans' causes. Though he has no formal political experience, McCormick maintains a close connection to Trump: His wife, Dina Powell, served as a deputy national security adviser in the Trump administration and remains on good terms with the former president.

The race for the GOP nomination in Pennsylvania is wide open, with recent polling showing none of the candidates earning double-digit support.

On the Democratic side, voters will likely decide between Lieutenant Gov. John Fetterman and Rep. Conor Lamb (Pa.). The Cook Political Report has rated the race a tossup, although Republicans are increasingly confident they can hold the seat, given the right candidate, following their victory in Virginia and Biden’s plummeting approval ratings.