The Great MAGA-Adjacent Hope?

David McCormick
Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images
Tina Nguyen
December 30, 2021

On paper, David McCormick, who is expected to enter the Republican primary for Pennsylvania’s open Senate seat, is a unicorn of a political candidate: Pittsburgh native, West Point and Princeton graduate, McKinsey alum, Army Ranger, Gulf War combat veteran, successful Pennsylvania businessman, and a senior official in the second Bush administration in both the Commerce and the Treasury Departments, who successfully represented the U.S. in several G7 meetings. A swooning Washington Times article from 2008 should tell you all you need to know about McCormick’s reputation in Republican circles as a “rising star” and dealmaker, who was simultaneously affable and able to impress suffer-no-fools hegemons, like Hank Paulson, who is quoted in the article as saying “he has a real strong presence.” Less than a decade later, he was named C.E.O. of Bridgewater Associates, Ray Dalio’s titanic, principles-laden, transparency-fetishizing hedge-fund-and-then-some.

On paper, again, McCormick is more impressive than not only Mitt Romney, for instance, but also Glenn Youngkin, the fellow McKinsey alum and former C.E.O. of the Carlyle Group, David Rubinstein’s august private equity firm, who ran a needle-threading Trump-adjacent yet Never Trumper-friendly campaign to win Virginia’s gubernatorial election this fall. That victory, heralded as a harbinger of a post-QAnon path for more sanity and experience in the party, presumably inspired McCormick that his brand of politics would again be acceptable to a larger swath of the G.O.P. 

McCormick, who is married to Dina Powell, the Goldman Sachs partner and former Trump aide, has gone about straddling the line between leaning into his own traditional Republican bonafides, and placating elements of the Trump base. Notably, he brought on several former Trump administration comms officials for the campaign: Hope Hicks, Stephen Miller, and Cliff Sims. But he also hired Jeff Roe, the ubermenschen Houston-based political strategist who led Ted Cruz’s 2016 campaign and, most recently, ushered Youngkin to victory in Virginia. Can McCormick’s still nascent political brand, which marries his patriotism and military service with the fact that he runs a global financial firm (that, of course, does billions in business with China), triumph over a divided electorate? It may come down to a little artful political re-maneuvering and deft marketing.