There are two and a half weeks left in the Pennsylvania Senate G.O.P. primary race, which features two non-native Pennsylvanian frontrunners with outsized statures and .001 percent status, mugging for the hearts and minds of the Rust Belt Trump voter. But the most uncomfortable part of the messy electoral gauntlet that Mehmet Oz and David “Dave” McCormick have to navigate is the whole 2020 election thing: was it stolen, as Donald Trump claims? Presumably, as well-educated coastal elites who formerly ran successful businesses and interfaced frequently with polite society, both Oz and Dave know that all credible accusations of election fraud are foolhardy. But as two ambition machines misdirected toward a legacy-burnishing political conquest, both also know that Republicans’ handling of this perilous question is the most important detail in a political portfolio nowadays.
Judging by Monday’s debate, which saw the two men face off against three other candidates, McCormick’s position on the stolen election question is well, maybe, and we need to investigate further. It’s a posture, it seems, that represents McCormick’s discomfort surrounding his current political-human-dignity pickle. Only a few months ago, to wit, he was the universally renowned and beloved C.E.O. of Bridgewater, a veteran, a former government official and polymath. Then he decided to move back to Pittsburgh, leaned into the contacts of his wife, Dina Powell, and hired dozens of former Trump comms drones, like Hope Hicks, to create a Breitbart-friendly narrative that he was, as Breitbart itself wrote, “Full MAGA.” If Monday’s waffling was any indication, McCormick isn’t ready to fully go there. And maybe that’s partly why Trump endorsed Oz despite McCormick’s multiple entreaties. He might have smelled a Mitt Romney.
Either way, on Monday, Oz had zero compunction about anything. He enthusiastically called 2020 a sham, insisted it needed to be litigated and declared that Biden needed the old heave-ho. “I have discussed it with President Trump and we cannot move on,” he declared. No surprise there—Trump has made it abundantly clear that his endorsements hinge on imbibing his reality—but it’s a demonic bargain for would-be moderates looking for some MAGA magic to put them over the edge. While a recent Politico/Morning Consult poll found that only 37 percent of Republicans want to continue to focus on 2020, 53 percent said they would support Trump continuing to make the case that he was robbed of a second term.