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McCormick says GOP has to embrace mail-in voting ‘or we’re going to lose’

(Credit: Jeff Swensen/Getty Images)

John Cole, Pennsylvania Capital-Star
April 5, 2024

CAMP HILL— Republican U.S. Senate candidate David McCormick told an annual gathering of Pennsylvania conservatives Friday that his top campaign issue was securing the U.S. southern border. 

“When I started the campaign October 1st, I’d go around, every room I’d go to, I’d say give me the three big issues. And the three big issues would be economy, they’d be border, and usually crime,” McCormick said at the Pennsylvania Leadership Conference (PLC). “Guess what? Border is number one right now.”

McCormick, who is running against three-term U.S. Democratic Sen. Bob Casey, said the numbers of people dying from fentanyl overdoses was a result of instability at the border. He blamed Casey and President Joe Biden for the current situation, and offered a suggestion for what he would do if elected to the Senate.

“Listen, I’m going to say something which may be controversial,” McCormick said. “As a military guy, I always am reluctant to use the military. We need to use our military to take out the [drug] cartels.” 

The packed ballroom applauded. McCormick said the U.S. has drone technology and “incredible special forces,” and that the nation had taken similar action before, against cartels in Colombia during the “cocaine wars.”

“I would surgically take out the cartels,” McCormick said. “We might do that with [the] Mexican government. If the Mexican government is compromised by the cartels, we might just do it on our own, but this is a huge national security threat.” 

Casey co-sponsored bipartisan legislation to address the flow of fentanyl at the border. The Fend Off Fentanyl Act would target drug traffickers through a combination of federal anti-money laundering policies and sanctions.  The bill passed the Senate with 70 votes in February.

And in November, Casey and Rahul Gupta, director of the White House Office of National Drug Control, called on Congress to approve billions in emergency funding to address opioid addiction.

On Friday, McCormick referred to what he thought was the “scariest” issue in the country right now: what he called a “spiritual decline.” 

“Only about a third of our young people think America is exceptional, only about a third are very patriotic,” he said.

He pointed to the controversial Congressional testimony of university professors in December, as an example of a lack of leadership and moral clarity across the U.S. and criticized the nation’s responses to aggressive actions made by China, Iran, and Russia.

McCormick is running his second campaign for U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania. In 2022, he lost the Republican Party primary by less than 1,000 votes to Mehmet Oz, who was former President Donald Trump’s endorsed candidate in the race. 

Casey and McCormick have clear paths to their respective parties’ nominations in 2024 as both candidates will be the only ones to appear on the April 23 primary ballot.

The race in Pennsylvania could determine the fate of the Senate, which McCormick underscored in his comments Friday. He expressed confidence that he has a unified Republican Party behind him. 

“This Senate seat gives the right leadership in Pennsylvania. It also will turn our majority in the Senate to a red majority, which under the worst case, will block the progressive left for taking our country over a cliff,” he said. “And under the best case, with President Trump in the White House and a Republican House will allow us to drive an agenda to get America back on track.”

He pointed to U.S. Reps. Scott Perry (R-10th District), also a speaker at the conference, and former chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, and Brian Fitzpatrick, co-chair of the Problem Solvers Caucus as examples of Pennsylvania Republicans he can work with. They don’t agree with him on everything, McCormick added, but are behind him.

McCormick expressed confidence in his chances this cycle, but recent polling shows Casey with an advantage at this point in the race.

Franklin & Marshall College poll conducted between March 20 and 31 showed Casey leading McCormick by 7 points. The Cook Political Report, a national ratings outlet, says the U.S. Senate race in Pennsylvania “leans Democratic.”

He addressed his support for mail-in voting during a visit to Philadelphia on Wednesday when asked by reporters, and brought it up unprompted on Friday. 

“We are united as a party, for the most part, on the need for mail in ballots,” McCormick said Friday. 

He said Pennsylvania’s no-excuse mail in voting law, known as Act 77 was not his “cup of tea, either, but that’s the law and we’re not going to win elections unless we close that gap.” He added that Trump’s team and people across the state and the country were “united” on the issue. “There’s millions of dollars focused on this, it’s something we’ve got to embrace or we’re going to lose.”

Trump’s campaign trail rhetoric, however, doesn’t seem to support McCormick’s assertion that the former president’s team supports mail in voting. Trump referred to mail-in voting as “totally corrupt” as recently as February.

In the lobby of the hotel where the conference was held, the Pennsylvania Republican Party had a sign-in sheet encouraging voters to sign up to “bank your vote” by committing to vote early. Win Again PAC also had signs outside of the venue that read “Beat the Democrats Vote By MAIL.” 

During the Q&A portion of the program, McCormick said the one thing he would do to combat Pennsylvania’s population decline is change in energy policies by embracing natural gas.

McCormick was also asked about questions regarding his residency in Connecticut, with Casey’s campaign and opponents pressing the issue and questioning his frequent trips to the state, where he owns a large home.

“You’re gonna get attacked on something, right, that’s the nature of this business,” McCormick said. “This is a pretty good one for me, I think. I want this.”

McCormick added that he’s divorced and does visit Connecticut to visit his daughter. 

Casey’s campaign has also made an issue of McCormick’s business record, particularly his business relationship with China, while he was the CEO of Bridgewater Associates. 

Although the general election is seven months away, both candidates are raising funds at an impressive rate. 

This week, McCormick’s campaign announced it raised $6.2 million in the first quarter of 2024, which included $1 million of his own money, while Casey’s campaign said it raised more than $5.6 million in the same period, a personal best for the three-term incumbent.

Pennsylvania Capital-Star is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Pennsylvania Capital-Star maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Kim Lyons for questions: Follow Pennsylvania Capital-Star on Facebook and Twitter.

This article is republished from Pennsylvania Capital-Star under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.