Trump endorses Dave McCormick for Senate in Pennsylvania

Former President Donald Trump on Saturday endorsed the Senate campaign of Republican Dave McCormick in Pennsylvania after initially being reluctant to endorse the former hedge fund executive who is challenging Democrat Bob Casey in a critical Senate battleground.

“I am officially giving my endorsement to David McCormick tonight. He’s a good a man. He wants to run a good ship. He’s a smart guy, who was a very successful guy. He’s given up a lot to do this,” Trump told supporters at a rally in Schnecksville, Pennsylvania, his last official campaign event before jury selection in his criminal hush money trial in New York begins Monday.

McCormick, who announced his campaign for Senate in September, is running unopposed in the April 23 Republican primary.

“I’ll tell you what: He’s the nominee of the Republican Party, David McCormick. Go out and vote for him because Casey doesn’t do a damn thing,” Trump said.

As CNN previously reported, people close to the former president said Trump’s resistance to weighing in early on the Senate race in Pennsylvania was not entirely surprising: Trump and McCormick have a fraught history, dating back to McCormick’s failed 2022 primary bid for the state’s other Senate seat against celebrity heart surgeon Mehmet Oz.

McCormick was not at Saturday’s rally. His campaign told CNN the candidate had a previously scheduled family event, a commitment he made long before Trump announced his planned rally.

McCormick thanked Trump for the endorsement in a social media post after the rally, saying, “Together we will deliver a big win for Pennsylvania and America in November.”

The former president has now endorsed all candidates backed by the National Republican Senatorial Committee in the major swing states, except Nevada. (And while he has not yet formally backed a candidate in the Senate race in Nevada, he posted on social media Friday that Republican hopeful Sam Brown and the former president himself were the “Clear Choices of Nevada’s Republican Voters and Donors.”)

Swing state success

Trump’s visit to Pennsylvania on Saturday comes as his team looks to replicate his stunning 2016 victory in the Keystone State on his way to winning the White House. The result, combined with his wins in Michigan and Wisconsin, created a seismic crack in the so-called blue wall of states Democrats had relied on in every election going back to 1992.

Joe Biden flipped all three states in 2020. Trump and Biden remain locked in a close race for the presidency, with registered voters nationwide splitting 46% for Trump to 45% for Biden, according to a new poll from The New York Times and Siena College.

At the start of his rally Saturday, Trump acknowledged Iran’s launch of a wave of strikes toward Israel in retaliation for last week’s deadly Israeli strike on an Iranian embassy complex in Syria.

“God bless the people of Israel. They’re under attack right now. … That’s because we show great weakness,” Trump said. “It’s unbelievable, and it would not have happened if we were in office.”

Shortly after, shouts of “Genocide Joe” broke out among some rally attendees positioned behind Trump.

The former president stopped his speech to turn around and look at them, before saying, “They’re not wrong. They’re not wrong. He’s done everything wrong.”

The slogan “Genocide Joe” has been used in recent months by some Biden critics to denounce his handling of the Israel-Hamas war. It was unclear Saturday whether the Trump rallygoers were using the slogan to convey the same message.

Biden has faced fierce criticism and condemnation from pro-Palestinian activists – including protests and interruptions at public events in the past several months – over his response to the Gaza conflict.

Hush money trial

Saturday’s rally was Trump’s last scheduled campaign event before jury selection begins Monday in his New York hush money trial. Following the rally, Trump was expected to fly straight to New York City, where he will be prepared by members of his legal team on Sunday on court protocol and messaging, a source familiar with his plans told CNN.

Trump spent a lengthy amount of time Saturday railing against the case, but he told supporters he was “proud to do it for you.” He also claimed once again that the case represented election interference and had no merit.

“It’s a joke all over the world, but when I walk into that courtroom, I know I will have the love of 200 million Americans behind me,” Trump said. “And I will be fighting for the freedom of 325 million Americans.”

As his trial commences, the former president will have to juggle his time between the courtroom and the campaign trail at a crucial period for his general election bid. He is required to be present in court the entire time – every weekday, except Wednesday – with the schedule set by the court. Trump’s team is working around the limitations to keep him interacting with voters and donors.

His next scheduled campaign appearance after jury selection starts is on April 20, when he is expected to go to North Carolina for a campaign event and fundraiser.

This story has been updated with additional information.

CNN’s Kristen Holmes and Shania Shelton contributed to this report.

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