Senate Republicans Have Rich People Problems

David McCormick, a businessman running for Senate in Pennsylvania, raised more money than Democratic Sen. Bob Casey last quarter. But his personal fortune is generating plenty of material for Democratic attacks.

David McCormick, a businessman running for Senate in Pennsylvania, raised more money than Democratic Sen. Bob Casey last quarter. But his personal fortune is generating plenty of material for Democratic attacks.

David McCormick, a businessman running for Senate in Pennsylvania, raised more money than Democratic Sen. Bob Casey last quarter. But his personal fortune is generating plenty of material for Democratic attacks.

David McCormick, the GOP candidate challenging Pennsylvania’s Democratic Sen. Bob Casey, was blunt when he spoke with students at Dartmouth University in New Hampshire last month.

“I am spending half my time with donors,” McCormick told students at the Tuck School of Business, according to audio obtained by the progressive news site Heartland Signal, adding: “I’m everywhere across the country, mostly with really wealthy people.”

McCormick himself, of course, is also one of those very wealthy people. Senate financial disclosures indicate McCormick, a former Bush administration official and CEO at Bridgewater Associates, and his wife Dina Powell, a Trump administration official who previously was a partner at Goldman Sachs, have a combined net worth of between $95 million and $196 million.

The wealth makes McCormick emblematic of the type of candidate Republicans are relying on to win back control of the Senate in 2024. The recruitment of the wealthy, an intentional strategy by the GOP, aims to help close the persistent gap in fundraising between Democratic and Republican Senate candidates that has opened up since the 2018 midterm elections. Republicans are counting on them to either fund races with their own pocketbooks, or turn to extensive fundraising networks.

Beyond McCormick, there’s aerial firefighting company owner Tim Sheehy in Montana; car dealer and blockchain executive Bernie Moreno in Ohio; banker Eric Hovde in Wisconsin; and even West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice, the Mountaineer State’s richest man.

There are plenty of signs it’s working ― McCormick raised $5.4 million in the fourth quarter of 2023, compared to just $3.6 million for Casey. A super PAC backing his candidacy raised a whopping $18 million, much of it from McCormick’s fellow Wall Street executives. But the strategy, as Republican candidates are discovering, comes with real risks: The wealthy often have plentiful baggage opening them up to Democratic attacks, including on their out-of-state homes, rich friends and yearslong business records.

In McCormick’s case, that has meant attacks on the $16 million mansion he rents in Connecticut; his financial ties to Saudi Arabia and China; and his history of outsourcing and laying off workers ― all part of an effort to paint him as an out-of-touch billionaire.

“Republicans’ Senate candidates have enough baggage to fill a bank vault,” said Tommy Garcia, a spokesman for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. “Their financial vulnerabilities ― coupled with their numerous other flaws and disqualifying policy positions ― will lead their campaigns to defeat.”

The National Republican Senatorial Committee declined to comment. Republican strategists, however, said any trade-off of additional vulnerabilities associated with having self-funding candidates was worth it. 

“A handful of negative stories now are 100% worth having extra points on television in October,” said one veteran GOP Senate campaign strategist, who requested anonymity to frankly discuss party strategy. “Republican candidates have been getting killed in fundraising for years now.”

In two key states, for instance, Republicans have already raised nearly as much as the party’s candidates in 2018 did throughout the entirety of the cycle: Casey’s opponent then, Rep. Lou Barletta, raised just $7.4 million over the course of the campaign. McCormick, who only officially announced his campaign in September, has already raised nearly $5.5 million, including a $1 million loan from the candidate himself.

In Montana, Rep. Matt Rosendale raised just shy of $6 million over the course of his entire 2018 campaign against Democratic Sen. Jon Tester. Sheehy’s campaign, meanwhile, has already raised $5.3 million, including a $950,000 loan from the candidate.

Casey and Tester’s fundraising has also improved, helped by their incumbency and the six years they’ve had to raise cash: Tester has banked $25.1 million so far this cycle, compared to the $21.2 million he raised all of last cycle. Casey has raised $18.1 million this cycle, compared to $21.7 million over the course of the 2018 election cycle. 

Democrats are hopeful McCormick’s financial advantages are undone by the weaknesses his wealth presents. Casey and his allies have shown a particular interest in tying McCormick to the governments of China and Saudi Arabia, two authoritarian regimes McCormick did extensive business with while leading Bridgewater Associates, a massive asset management firm. (McCormick has been highly critical of China since beginning his electoral career last cycle.) 

David McCormick’s history of selling out Pennsylvanians to boost his own bottom line has left him entangled with foreign governments like China and Saudi Arabia, and at the beck and call of his billionaire backers,” said TaNisha Cameron, a spokesperson for the Pennsylvania Democratic Party. “His record of prioritizing the ultra-wealthy and big corporations at the expense of working families is a non-starter with Pennsylvania voters.” 

McCormick’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment. The campaign has tried to emphasize his roots in the Pittsburgh suburb of Bloomsburg, and has sent him around the state to interact with working-class voters. He has emphasized issues of concern to voters in the state’s conservative and working class “T” ― the parts of the state outside of the Philadelphia and Pittsburgh metro areas ― including border security and combating the spread of fentanyl. 

“I spend half my time in Pennsylvania, where the median income is $55,000 to $60,000,” he told the Dartmouth students.

Democrats’ plan of attack against other wealthy GOP candidates is similar. Against Sheehy, they plan to note how his family provided money to help get his business off the ground, how his small government rhetoric conflicts with his company’s reliance on federal dollars, and how his roots are outside the state of Montana.  

For Bernie Moreno, who has put nearly $4 million into his campaign and is now the front-runner to challenge Sen. Sherrod Brown in Ohio, Democrats want to focus on the trappings of his fortune, which is between $25.5 million and $105.5 million, according to financial disclosures. Moreno owns a $2.3 million Aston Martin, a Bahamas home worth at least $5 million and a yacht valued at at least $1 million.

Republicans, meanwhile, think they have the perfect riposte to all of these attacks: At least our candidates aren’t career politicians. They plan on emphasizing the candidates’ backgrounds in the military and business, which they think will contrast with the decadeslong political careers of candidates like Tester, Brown and Casey.

Hovde’s campaign launch on Tuesday showcased the likely back-and-forth. The first major challenger to Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Hovde owns a real estate company in Madison and a bank in California. He also spent $5.6 million of his own money on a failed 2012 Senate run.

“Hovde is an out of touch hedge fund manager who’s built his career catering to millionaires and billionaires,” declared Hannah Menchhoff, a spokeswoman for Senate Majority PAC, the main super PAC backing Senate Democrats.

“Eric Hovde’s experience as a job creator rather than a career politician makes him a strong candidate to flip Wisconsin’s Senate seat this year,” countered Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.), the chair of the NRSC. 

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