David McCormick, the Republican candidate looking to unseat Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) this November, returned on Thursday from a 36-hour solidarity trip to Israel, during which he met political leaders and families of hostages whom Hamas terrorists kidnapped on Oct. 7.
A former hedge-fund manager and U.S. Army veteran who graduated from West Point, McCormick told JNS that his willingness to confront Iran is one of the biggest marks distinguishing him from his Democratic opponent.
“The source of the terrorist funding, the source of terrorist ideology in the region is Iran,” McCormick said. “Bob Casey has gone step by step in supporting a deal with Iran.”
“He has been part of, and in many cases the deciding vote supporting, a posture towards Iran, which has directly led to Iran’s capacity to support terrorism across the region,” McCormick said. “That was a terribly failed strategy.”
While Casey bills himself as a “steadfast” supporter of Israel, McCormick said his opponent has lacked “moral clarity and consistency” in that support.
“He’s not been willing to take a tough stance against the antisemitism that’s jumping up on our campuses,” he said. McCormick noted that he called for the resignation of University of Pennsylvania president Liz Magill after her congressional testimony on campus antisemitism on Dec. 5.
Casey criticized Magill but did not call for her ouster at the time.
McCormick also cited Casey’s failure to condemn members of the so-called “Squad” of left-wing progressives, who are among Israel’s harshest critics in Congress. Casey has endorsed “Squad” member Rep. Summer Lee (D-Pa.), who was one of just nine members of Congress who opposed a resolution declaring that Israel was “not a racist or apartheid state.”
One of the most contentious Israel-related issues in Congress is U.S. President Joe Biden’s proposed $106 billion foreign aid supplemental. The package includes $14.3 billion for Israel and $60 billion for Ukraine, but Republican negotiators have said that it also needs to include funding and reforms to halt the flow of migrants at the U.S. southern border before they will consider supporting the measure.
“Republicans are right in the following sense: We have an absolute crisis on our southern border,” McCormick said.
“We absolutely need to move firmly and swiftly supporting Israel against the terrorist actions of Hamas. I don’t accept the Biden administration’s position,” he said. “The Biden administration should be moving forward on both things at the same time, and I think Republican leadership is correct.”
Ukraine support slipping
McCormick added that he thinks that U.S. support for Ukraine is diminishing in part because the Biden administration has failed to lay out a strategic vision for success in the conflict.
“The Biden administration has to show how this ends,” McCormick said. “People feel like there’s a blank check that’s being asked for as opposed to a strategy on how the conflict will come to a resolution.”
The Biden administration has also hinted publicly about what it wants the “day after,” when the war with Hamas ends. It has said that the United States is opposed to any permanent displacement of Palestinians and that Gaza should remain Palestinian land.
While he does not know what the end state in Gaza will look like, his visit to some of the hardest-hit communities in the Oct. 7 attacks and his meetings with the families of victims made it clearer to him that Hamas must be destroyed, McCormick told JNS.
“It just reinforced the need to absolutely eradicate Hamas,” he said. “You can’t live. You can’t sit in your backyard and look 600 meters [nearly 2,000 feet] across the cornfield and think that you can live side by side with people and a terrorist organization that can undertake such a horrific genocidal campaign.”
During his trip, McCormick watched the 47 minutes of footage that Israel compiled of the Oct. 7 massacre, much of it taken by members of Hamas hoping to glorify the attacks.
“As terrible and horrific as you can imagine, this was worse,” he told JNS. “I got this window into what Israel, what the people of Israel, have experienced. Obviously, it’s not firsthand, but I have a much deeper appreciation.”
McCormick, who narrowly lost a 2022 Republican primary battle to Dr. Mehmet Oz, is a former U.S. under secretary of the Treasury for international affairs.
He is not facing any significant challengers for the primary in April. While Casey has a lead in some early opinion polling, Pennsylvania is one of the states that Republicans hope will flip the Senate red in the Nov. 5 general election.