Capitol Beat

Dave McCormick: ‘America needs to go to the gym’

The former hedge fund executive is contemplating another U.S. Senate run.

Republican Senate candidate Dave McCormick speaks to supporters at the Indigo Hotel during a primary election night event on May 17, 2022 in Pittsburgh.

Republican Senate candidate Dave McCormick speaks to supporters at the Indigo Hotel during a primary election night event on May 17, 2022 in Pittsburgh. Jeff Swensen/Getty Images

Dave McCormick was just 950 votes away from securing the Republican nomination in Pennsylvania’s 2022 U.S. Senate primary, losing by .07% in a primary battle with celebrity physician and eventual nominee Mehmet Oz. Had he polled fractionally higher, the general election in the Keystone State may have looked a lot different. 

As another Senate election looms in 2024, McCormick isn’t looking to the past, choosing instead to be optimistic about the future of the country. McCormick, the former CEO of asset management firm Bridgewater Associates, spoke with City & State earlier this month about his 2022 campaign, his new book – and the likelihood of him running for Senate against U.S. Sen. Bob Casey next year.

This conversation has been edited and condensed for length and clarity. 

You came very close to winning the GOP nomination for U.S. Senate last year. What was that experience like for you?

We started to think seriously about running after the Afghanistan debacle. (President Joe Biden had U.S. troops to evacuate the country in August 2021, just before the Taliban took control of the Afghan government.) That was sort of the catalyst and then we had some health issues in our family which delayed us and made us reconsider. We ultimately didn’t get in the race until Jan. 13. The primary was May 7. It was this incredible five-month whirlwind. I started with zero name ID and had never been a political candidate. So there was a lot of experience jammed into five months. The big picture is, it was an incredible experience. It was exhilarating. It was an amazing opportunity to meet people from across Pennsylvania – I put 30,000 miles on my pickup truck. I did every diner, fire hall or VFW I could find. We talked about things like inflation, fentanyl and the impact of globalization. It wasn’t fun sometimes to be in the public eye and all the nastiness in politics these days, but overall, the experience was absolutely incredible. No regrets. 

Are there things you could have done differently to tip the scales in your favor in the primary?

The problem when you lose by 900 votes or 950 or whatever it was, and there are 1.4 million votes cast, is that there are hundreds of things you could have done differently. One more rally, one more commercial, a different allocation of advertising – so, not really. I wish I would have spent more time in the southeast and in the northeast parts of the state. In the southeast, I think my story, my business experience, my family, my wife – I think we would have had even more success had we had a chance to spend more time here in the five counties. In the northeast, where I grew up, that’s where President Trump did really, really well. In a state like Pennsylvania, you realize how large it is – 67 counties. When you do a five-month campaign, you just have to make trade-offs. So if anything, I just wish I would have had another couple of months. I think I could have really touched a lot of places in the commonwealth that I wasn’t able to in the five months that I had.

You wrote a book, ‘Superpower in Peril: A Battle Plan to Renew America.’ How did that project come to be? 

The book was conceived long before I decided to run for the Senate – in fact, before Sen. Toomey even said he wasn’t running. The book and the campaign were initially completely unrelated. So I had written a couple of articles. I had written for the website War on the Rocks about technology leadership. I had written an article in the National Review about skilled immigration. I did a piece on military reform in Fast Company. A couple of op-eds. I had this idea to write a collection of essays. I essentially started with: There seems to be a lot of agreement that the country is in decline – in economic terms, in relative terms, national security-wise, spiritually – with the progressive agenda that’s hijacking our institutions, our schools and our military. 

I started with the premise of decline because there’s so much pessimism and I’m optimistic about the American future for the reasons I state in the book. I wanted to write a book that was accurate in describing our state of decline. The cover of it, if you’ve seen the book, in super big, red, bold letters: “Superpower in Peril.” And I think we are, but at the same time, I’m optimistic about the future, because the American tradition is one of getting to the edge of the cliff and then pulling ourselves back. So I wanted to write a book that was optimistic by laying out an agenda for reform and what needed to happen to deal with the challenges within – the erosion of the American dream – and dealing with the challenges on the outside, the growing conflict and threat posed by China. 

What, in your opinion, needs to be done to make these ideas a reality?

The agenda I outlined is: Educate our people, confront China and secure the country. There are really two big pieces to it. One is what I described as going to the gym. America needs to go to the gym and do the basic things we need to regain our strength, regain our internal strength. There are three big chapters in the book – one is about talent, one is about technology and one is about data. 

I lay out an education agenda and I lay out a skill-training agenda so we can create skilled workers that can compete. Both of those are policies at the local level, at the state level and the federal level. I talk about immigration and I talked about the terrible challenges we have at the border. I went to the border during the campaign; I think it’s really a tragedy. But I also talk about reform of our legal system. And those three pieces make up the talent chapter. It’s an agenda that is at the core of innovation and at the core of America's renewal. 

When U.S. Sen. Bob Casey announced his plans to run for reelection this year, you put out a pretty strong statement calling him a Washington insider and saying he’s not a leader that we can count on to deliver a better future. Walk me through what you think of Casey’s performance in Washington and whether or not you’ve got your eye on another Senate bid. 

I know Bob Casey a little bit. I knew his father. So I know he’s a fine person and a committed public servant. My criticism of him is that he’s been a career politician in Washington. Second, he’s really, over time, merged to the left. He has a 100% voting record with (U.S. Senate Majority leader) Chuck Schumer. 

He’s not represented Pennsylvania voters in a way that is consistent with the needs of Pennsylvania. His support and voting on fracking has been detrimental to a key driver of economic growth. 

I think the country’s headed in the wrong direction … and I think a big reason for it is a progressive agenda that’s undermining some core principles of what’s made America great. I think Sen. Casey has really embraced those policies and those principles.

Anything you can share on a potential Senate bid coming up?

When you lose by 900 votes, it’s not like you lose the passion – or the conviction – to serve. I’m certainly considering running again. I haven’t made any decisions, but I definitely want to help be part of the solution. I feel like those that are blessed with all that America has to offer, like I have been, have an obligation to try to serve, so I’m certainly thinking about it, but I haven’t decided.