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Exclusive — ‘Populist Potential’: CEO of World’s Largest Hedge Fund Plans to Go Full MAGA in Looming Pennsylvania Senate Bid

Republican David McCormick, the CEO of the world’s largest hedge fund Bridgewater Associates, is likely to enter Pennsylvania’s crowded GOP Senate primary early next year, and sources close to him told Breitbart News to expect a myth-busting campaign from the businessman similar to former President Donald Trump’s meteoric 2016 presidential campaign.

McCormick’s chief opponent in the GOP primary, assuming he follows through with a formal campaign announcement early next year, would be Dr. Mehmet Oz, the celebrity doctor who entered the race late this year with much fanfare on Sean Hannity’s television program on Fox News. Then, if he can power past Oz and the rest of a crowded field that also includes other Republicans Jeff Bartos, Carla Sands, and Kathy Barnette, he would likely face Pennsylvania’s Lieutenant Gov. John Fetterman in the general election. Fetterman is the far and away front-running Democrat candidate per public polling in a crowded field that also includes Rep. Conor Lamb (D-PA), among others. McCormick, sources familiar with his plans told Breitbart News, is going to lay it all on the line by embracing the issues that carried Trump into the White House in 2016—forcing yet another test in GOP circles on whether it was the issues or the celebrity-esque personality that won the day for Trump and what is the winning formula for future Republicans.

“Trump is a once in a generation political talent. He had the celebrity, the brand and the personality, but he also had ideas and policies that resonated,” a 2016 Trump campaign veteran told Breitbart News. “At best, Oz has a fraction of the star power, and none of the policies. McCormick has the right ideas, and he really connects with people. He has major populist potential to take this all the way.”

McCormick, who is particularly close with Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) and with former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, will have no shortage of Trump allies at his side to make this case. He’ll also clearly have the money needed to get his message out to voters in Pennsylvania.

The GOP field in Pennsylvania’s Senate primary was thrown into disarray last month when Trump-endorsed Outlaw Platoon Army veteran Sean Parnell dropped out of the race after he lost an initial custody battle with his ex-wife, something Parnell still considers an unfair ruling and one he is challenging. Since Bartos running a smear campaign against Parnell is a big part of why these developments happened to the energetic young veteran, it seems unlikely that Bartos—who also previously interned for Democrat former President Bill Clinton’s White House—would gain any traction. Sands and Barnette have had trouble getting rolling as well for different reasons, which is part of what drew Oz into the open field—and seems to be why McCormick is looking hard at a run of his own.

To beat Oz first and then Fetterman, McCormick is assembling a team of Trump alumni and developing an issues-based vision to hammer narratives similar to what Trump did in 2016—a laser focus on China, immigration, national security, and trade, as well as an intense look at working class policy solutions to the economic woes of Pennsylvania’s blue collar workers.

McCormick, who earlier this week released a video showing him picking out Christmas trees as a kid and later as an Army Ranger as part of a formal exploratory committee for a U.S. Senate campaign, is running that video with a $1 million ad buy all over television in Pennsylvania to introduce himself to voters. He’s also, according to Politico, hired Trump campaign alumni like Hope Hicks and Stephen Miller—two critical 2016 Trump campaign staffers who then served alongside the 45th president for most in Hicks’ case and all in Miller’s case of his term in the White House. Another Trump campaign and White House alumnus on McCormick’s team is Cliff Sims, a sharp-elbowed populist and former conservative journalist with Alabama roots. Encouraging McCormick is also Tony Sayegh, a former Treasury Department and White House official who ran messaging for the Trump White House on the Trump tax cuts and defended Trump in his first impeachment fight with congressional Democrats. McCormick has also brought on Jeff Roe, the 2016 campaign manager for Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) who also helped oversee Virginia Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin’s winning campaign over Democrat Terry McAuliffe in November.

On the other side, Oz has as his campaign’s architect a man named Jon Lerner, a GOP establishment campaign hand particularly close with former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley—who went on to serve as Trump’s first ambassador to the United Nations before having serious policy and political differences with the then-president in later years of his administration as he pursued his populist agenda.

Staff picks aside, though, McCormick’s allies think he has a great story to tell: A seventh generation Pennsylvanian born in Washington County outside Pittsburgh, McCormick was raised on a farm in Bloomsburg, where he spent his summers bailing hay and winters trimming Christmas trees on the family farm and neighboring farms too. The son of two teachers, McCormick was a football and wrestling star in high school who went on be the first person from his town in a generation to attend West Point before serving as an Army Ranger in the 82nd Airborne Division in the Gulf War. He came home to launch his business career in Pittsburgh, where, among other business opportunities, he headed a start-up company creating hundreds of Pennsylvania jobs—and was eventually asked to serve in the George W. Bush administration in the mid-2000s in a variety of roles at both the Commerce and Treasury Departments. After his time in government, in 2009, he joined Bridgewater Associates—a Wall Street hedge fund that as of earlier this year had about $140 billion in assets under management—later becoming its co-CEO in 2016 and its sole CEO in 2019. Trump, who is close with McCormick and his wife, Dina Powell, had considered McCormick for a variety of positions in his administration, but those did not work for a variety of reasons. Powell, however, did serve in Trump’s White House after having a leading role at Goldman Sachs, the powerful financial firm to which she returned after her time in the Trump administration.

David McCormick looks on during a press conference at the U.S. embassy in the Emirati capital Abu Dhabi, October 29, 2007. (KARIM SAHIB/AFP via Getty Images)

That’s where the myth-busting of a possible McCormick candidacy comes in, in that one would think that a Wall Street financial hedge fund guru married to a Goldman Sachs Management Committee member would be someone who, like Bridgewater founder Ray Dalio, is neck-deep in apologist nonsense backing up the rise of the Chinese Communist Party on the world stage and pushing the “need” for endless immigration and trade deals that do not consider the American worker’s interests never mind putting them first. However, several sources close to McCormick told Breitbart News to expect from his campaign, on the other hand, an aggressive, Trump-like focus on these and other matters with a serious policy-heavy focus on solutions—and putting the American worker first.

The showdown that looms for McCormick with Oz in the primary, in other words, will potentially provide a perfect opportunity for Republicans to again retest the Trump experiment: Was it Trump’s celebrity appeal—his personality—or was it his grinding down on the issues that seemingly everyone else in the political establishment was ignoring that led to Trump’s shocking 2016 victory?

“Just like President Trump, Dave knows how the system works and knows how to beat the Chinese at the negotiating table — because unlike everyone else in the race, he’s actually done it,” one source close to McCormick told Breitbart News. “Meanwhile, Mehmet Oz is an anti-gun, pro-abortion liberal who pals around with woke Hollywood hypocrites and lives in Palm Beach, not Pittsburgh.”

This question has been tested several times before, and time and again it usually comes down on the side of the issues winning and the cult of personality losing. A good recent example of that is when Caitlyn Jenner tried to run for governor of California earlier this year in the recall election, and, like Oz, launched that campaign on Hannity’s Fox News program—only to see it crumble before it even took off as the weight of actual issues exposed weaknesses and inconsistencies in the campaign message. Jenner being a mess on the issues—like transgender policies and immigration questions among many others—was quickly exposed, as were past controversial comments and stances from the candidate, rapidly sinking the candidate’s chances. In Pennsylvania, Oz seems to be facing a similar fate, in that despite the energetic out-the-gate launch with a push from Hannity, past videos of the celebrity doctor having made a number of eye-popping comments inconsistent with core GOP base values on everything from immigration to China to national security to health policy like vaccine mandates, masks, and lockdowns in the face of the coronavirus pandemic have stunted any initial candidate growth in early polling.

US-Turkish television personality Mehmet Oz, known as Dr. Oz, attends the premiere of the seventh and final season of HBO's "Veep" at Alice Tully Hall at the Lincoln Center in New York City on March 26, 2019. (Photo by Angela Weiss / AFP) (Photo by ANGELA WEISS/AFP via Getty Images)

U.S.-Turkish television personality Mehmet Oz, known as Dr. Oz, attends a premiere at the Lincoln Center in New York City on March 26, 2019. (ANGELA WEISS/AFP via Getty Images)

Two polls conducted in the wake of Oz’s entrance into the field show the television doctor not gaining any real steam in the Keystone State despite overpowering narrative dominance with millions of dollars in both earned and unearned media. An Echelon Insights poll conducted from December 1 to December 3 shows while Oz is indeed in first place in the crowded field, he is barely there at just 11 percent. That poll has Barnette at 7 percent, Sands at 5 percent, and Bartos as well as fellow Republican Sean Gale down at 4 percent—not exactly a commanding Oz lead.

A second one, conducted by the leading GOP pollster the Trafalgar Group, confirmed this trend despite some movement towards Oz since the Echelon poll. That survey, conducted December 13 to December 16, also found Oz in first place with just under 19 percent and Barnette in second with 8 percent, Sands in third with 7.4 percent, Bartos way back in fourth with 3.2 percent, and Gale down in last with just 1 percent. The leading response, the Trafalgar survey found, was by far undecided: 50.8 percent said they did not know who they would back, and another 10.8 percent said they supported “another candidate.”

These two surveys are the first to not include the name Parnell, the previous Trump-backed runaway frontrunner before he dropped out of the race, and suggest a shakeup in the field is ripe for the taking with the right conditions—which is a large part of why sources close to him say McCormick is very seriously weighing running.

The polls seem to indicate that Oz has not filled the vacuum left behind by Parnell’s exit from the fray, and former Parnell supporters are left looking for someone else—and think McCormick may be the guy. “Dave has the same warrior mentality that excited Parnell’s supporters,” one former Parnell supporter hoping McCormick runs told Breitbart News. “His service and dedication to our country is honorable, but it’s his capabilities as a real fighter and someone who doesn’t back down, is what will really impress Pennsylvania voters.”

Polling is not the only indicator Oz is floundering off the bat: His own television show’s ratings, per The Wrap, are plummeting at the end of the season after he launched his Senate bid.

“‘Dr. Oz’ continued to tumble in the ratings race ahead of the show’s end date next month,” The Wrap’s Tim Baysinger wrote on Tuesday. “The daytime talker, which is ending Jan. 14 as its host Mehmet Oz prepares to run for Senator in Pennsylvania, posted a 0.5 rating for the week ended Dec. 12, which was down 17% from the week prior. Compared to last year at this time, ‘Dr. Oz’ is down 29%, which is the biggest drop of any talk show in the top 14.”

What’s more, this week Oz hosted—of all people—Bridgewater’s Dalio on his show to hype his new book, presumably an effort to kneecap McCormick before he got in the race against him. During the appearance, which Politico described as “chummy,” however, Oz praised the China-loving Dalio as his “good friend” and offered an effusive endorsement for Dalio’s previous book Principles for Dealing with the Changing World Order, which pushed China hard as the future.

From Politico Playbook earlier this week, here is more on the significance of this moment with Dalio and Oz:

The doctor credited Dalio with sparking his interest in transcendental meditation and said he had “incredible wisdom to share.”

The reason this potentially matters? An anti-China platform would be in keeping with the profile Oz is projecting as the true MAGA candidate in the primary. And Bridgewater’s investments in China would be a potential line of attack for Oz against McCormick. But it will be trickier for Oz to go there after he just cozied up to McCormick’s colleague. The interview was pre-taped before news broke of McCormick’s potential run, but aired Dec. 10, after his interest became known. A spokesperson for Oz did not have a comment. Bloomberg reported early this month that McCormick, who just launched his first ad, clashed with Dalio over his views on China.

What this means is that Oz basically just walked right into McCormick’s trap, helping clean up what might be the biggest line of attack against McCormick—and turning it into a positive for McCormick and a negative for Oz. McCormick can point back to that Bloomberg story on his differences with Dalio on China, and to Oz’s affection for the Chinese Communist Party sympathizer, as he fleshes out criticisms of China on the campaign trail in ads, interviews, and speeches—something that would help him both in the primary and the general election. Put more simply: Oz in one interview just made his biggest opponent’s biggest weakness his own biggest weakness, and it could very well become his biggest opponent’s biggest strength if McCormick plays his cards right.

The big question for McCormick, though, is whether he can fully ditch the pinstripe suits of Wall Street and head back to his roots in Pennsylvania to become the working class populist nationalist champion his team thinks he can. That remains to be seen, but if he can do it the lane is there for the taking—and what’s more, given that the U.S. Senate is currently split 50-50 between Republicans and Democrats, the fate of the nation quite literally could depend on it depending on how other Senate races in other states shake out. The polling shows the people of Pennsylvania are withholding judgment for now, but McCormick—whose name has not yet been polled in any publicly released surveys—aims to convince them he’s their guy.

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