DemDaily: Senate Showdown in Pennsylvania

April 4, 2024

One of the nation’s most expensive and closely watched US Senate races is ramping up in Pennsylvania where incumbent Democratic Senator Bob Casey, Jr. is running for reelection to a fourth term.

The stakes are high for both parties in the battleground Keystone State, which Biden won by just over 1%.

Casey is being challenged by former 2022 Senate candidate and hedge fund CEO David McCormick; both are running uncontested in the upcoming April 23 primary.

Pennsylvania is one of the “blue wall” states, along with Wisconsin and Michigan, which Biden flipped in 2020. Trump currently holds a 3-point lead in Michigan and is in a dead heat with Biden in Wisconsin.

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Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania has backed the Democratic presidential candidate in every election since 1992, except for 2016 when Republican Donald Trump narrowly carried the state by 0.72% as part of his upset sweep of the Rust Belt.

Democrats hold both Senate seats and nine of the 17 congressional seats.

Pennsylvania's state government is divided, with Democrats controlling the offices of Governor and Attorney General, as well as the State House; Republicans hold the office of Secretary of State and control the State Senate.

Pennsylvania delivered the only US Senate flip of the 2022 election cycle with the victory of John Fetterman (D) over Trump-endorsed TV celebrity Dr. Mehmet Oz (R) in the open seat to succeed retiring Republican Senator Pat Toomey.

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Oz had emerged as the GOP nominee after a vicious primary battle that ended with him defeating David McCormick 31.2% to 31.1% -- a margin of less than 1,000 votes -- in a recount.

McCormick, who self-financed over $14 million of the $20 million he raised for his 2022 Senate bid, announced his challenge to Casey September 21, 2023.

McCormick, whose estimated worth is $95 to196 million, is the former CEO of hedge fund Bridgewater Associates and served as US Under Secretary of the Treasury for International Affairs in the George W. Bush administration.

McCormick emphatically endorsed Trump after his Super Tuesday victories, but the former President has so far declined to ally himself with McCormick, whom he denounced as "[the] candidate of special interests and globalists" while endorsing Mehmet Oz in the 2022 Pennsylvania primaries.

A Democratic victory in the Northeastern swing state is crucial to keeping the White House and Senate. No Democrat has won the White House without Pennsylvania’s support since Harry S. Truman in 1948. Casey's loss would likely guarantee Republican control of a Senate currently divided by the narrowest of margins.

Casey, who has a 39% favorability rating among Pennsylvania voters, has been described as an "even-keeled moderate, not only in tone but in policy."

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A former state treasurer and auditor general and the son of a former governor, Casey was first elected in 2006, defeating Republican Senator Rick Santorum by 17.4%. He was reelected in 2012 by 9% and 2018 by 13%.

He sits on the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, and Chairs the Subcommittee on Children and Families. He also sits on the Senate Finance Committee, and the Select Committee on Intelligence, and Chairs the Special Committee on Aging.

Casey is a formidable fundraiser, announcing today that his re-election campaign raised an unprecedented $5.6 million in the first fundraising period of 2024 -- with 80% of his donations being under $50. In total, Casey has raised $23.3 million -- the strongest haul of his career.

McCormick raised $5.4 million in the first quarter of 2024 --$1 million of which he donated himself -- for a total of $9.9 million. While neither campaign has officially filed their first quarter finance reports, Casey had $9.4 million cash on hand entering 2024; and McCormick had $4.17 cash on hand.

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Outside, or "satellite," spending on the race is expected to be considerable. The Senate Majority PAC, a super PAC tied to Senate Democratic leadership, has reserved $42 million in ads — scheduled to begin running the last week of August and focused on Black, Latino, and young voters, key parts of the Democratic coalition.

McCormick is supported by Keystone Renewal, a super PAC that raised $18 million since December from a mere 34 donations, including hedge fund manager Ken Griffin and Jeffrey Yass, the richest person in Pennsylvania and a longtime GOP megadonor.

McCormick is Casey's most serious challenge, and both are inescapably tied to the destiny of their party's presidential nominees in the most consequential race for the White House in modern history.

According to a March 20-31 Franklin & Marshall poll, Casey led McCormick 46%-39% among likely Pennsylvania voters (MOE +/- 4.0%). The same poll had Biden leading Trump 42% to 40% in the state.

Related
DemDaily: The Presidential Primary Calendar. The Updates! 3/21/24
DemDaily: Pennsylvania Democrats Hold Onto House 2/15/24
DemDaily: Red State, Blue State 1/21/24

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Kimberly Scott
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Sources: WHYY, Politico, Pittsburg Post-Gazette, AP, Philadelphia Inquirer, FEC, Open Secrets, Pennsylvania Capital-Star, The Hill

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