Feb 12, 2024 - Politics & Policy

McCormick avoids nasty GOP primary in Pennsylvania's Senate race

PITTSBURGH, PA - MAY 17: Pennsylvania Republican Senate candidate Dave McCormick speaks to supporters at the Indigo Hotel during a primary election night event

Pennsylvania Republican Senate candidate Dave McCormick. Photo: Jeff Swensen/Getty Images

Republican David McCormick is on the verge of clinching the GOP nomination for one of the most competitive Senate races in the 2024 cycle, with a Tuesday filing deadline in Pennsylvania and no challengers in sight.

Why it matters: McCormick's challenge to Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) is expected to be one of the most expensive and competitive races this year — in a swing state that could determine control of the Senate and the presidency.

  • McCormick, a former hedge fund CEO, was the runner-up in 2022's Senate GOP primary in Pennsylvania, losing to Trump-backed celebrity doctor Mehmet Oz.
  • The brutal primary left Oz bloodied for the general election. He lost to now-Sen. John Fetterman (D-Pa.), who faced questions about his fitness for office after suffering a stroke.

Driving the news: Pennsylvania's candidate filing deadline closes at 5pm ET on Tuesday. With no serious challengers jumping in, McCormick will avoid a potentially nasty primary.

  • Brandi Tomasetti launched a last minute effort to challenge, but it is unclear if she will have the needed signatures.
  • The early deadline launches Casey and McCormick into an early head-to-head matchup, while GOP challengers fight it out in primaries in other target states such as Arizona, Montana and Ohio.

By the numbers: Early polls have consistently shown Casey with a lead over McCormick in the competitive race.

  • Former President Trump in 2016 became the first Republican presidential candidate to win Pennsylvania in 28 years, but Biden narrowly won it back in 2020.
  • "I'm humbled and grateful to have the support of Pennsylvania Republicans in this fight," McCormick told Axios in a statement, vowing to "beat Bob Casey and stop his unconditional support of Joe Biden's failed immigration, crime, and economic policies."

What to watch: McCormick's campaign plans to hit Casey on the border — a top issue for Republicans this year — to try to close the polling gap.

  • 29% of Pennsylvanian voters listed border security in their top two priorities for a senator — second only to inflation at 37%, according to internal GOP polling from late January provided to Axios.
  • But Casey is also going on offense on the issue, after McCormick said he opposed the restrictive bipartisan border deal that met a quick death in the Senate.
  • "My opponent, Mr. McCormick, came out against the bill. So he came out four-square against the best solution to the border crisis in 25 years. I don't know how you can have that position, but he does," Casey told CNN.

The big picture: McCormick's clear path to the general ballot for the Senate seat comes as new campaign announcements shake up key races elsewhere.

  • Hardliner Rep. Matt Rosendale (R-Mont.) will now primary Tim Sheehy to oust Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.). Sheehy is already backed by the National Republican Senatorial Committee.
  • Former Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, a popular Republican, is putting the blue state in play with his last-minute bid for the seat held by Democratic Sen. Ben Cardin, who is retiring. Rep. David Trone (D-Md.) and Angela Alsobrooks are the Democrats facing off in the Maryland primary.
Go deeper