Worried about backing a losing candidate, Trump is apt to hold off until he has a clearer idea of who’s most likely to win, Republicans close to McCormick and Trump said.
Former hedge fund executive David McCormick entered Pennsylvania’s shambolic Republican Senate primary last week with a retinue of Donald Trump allies on his side but a history of mild if inconvenient criticisms of the former president in his past.
Mehmet Oz, the celebrity TV doctor, joined the race weeks earlier with tenuous ties to the state but with Fox News’ Sean Hannity privately talking up his candidacy.
So far, neither candidate has lured Trump off the sidelines after his first choice for the seat, Sean Parnell, dropped out amid scandal. Worried about backing a losing candidate, Trump is apt to withhold another endorsement until he has a clearer idea of who’s most likely to win, more than a half dozen Republicans close to him and McCormick told NBC News.
“Trump has friends on all sides of the race,” said one Republican strategist plugged into the former president’s political orbit. “All signs point to him letting things play out and develop more before seriously considering making an endorsement.”
The race in Pennsylvania, where Sen. Pat Toomey, a Republican, is not seeking another term, is expected to be one of the most competitive of 2022 as both parties fight for control of the Senate. Democrats have a crowded primary of their own.
As of now, Trump is not convinced that McCormick is the right Republican and has voiced misgivings about his ability to make inroads with Pennsylvania’s blue-collar voters, said one person who recently discussed the race with the former president. Oz, meanwhile, has made frequent appearances on Fox News. And Fox News’s Hannity has touted Oz’s candidacy in conversations with Trump, according to two people close to the former president. A spokesperson for Fox News did not respond to a request for comment.
Trump is intrigued by Oz’s “national star power” and sees him as the better bet at this stage of the race, said the person who recently discussed the race with him.
But that hasn’t been enough to earn the endorsement. A source close to McCormick’s campaign who also has ties to Trumpworld said that Trump had learned of Oz’s single-vote, last-place finish in a recent GOP straw poll and was surprised by the poor performance.
Inside the McCormick campaign, advisers don’t believe Trump will endorse anyone until he has a clearer picture of who is favored.