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Top GOP recruit McCormick frets about mail-in buy-in in Pennsylvania

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Dave McCormick, a top GOP recruit in Pennsylvania’s Senate race, has a crucial concern as he gets ready for a bruising election: Getting his party — and former President Donald Trump — on board with mail-in-ballots.

In a call Wednesday to update other Pennsylvania congressional campaigns on the state of his race, McCormick said he’s “really worried” about mail-in voting and that he and the GOP need to erode the Democrats’ “built-in advantage” on mail-in ballots.

But a main problem is convincing the GOP base to trust mail-in voting after Trump has repeatedly alleged mail-in voting is more susceptible to fraud. McCormick’s campaign is communicating with Trump’s team regarding the issue.

Though Trump’s team is pursuing a broader mail-in ballot strategy, the former president’s personal position is a far murkier question.

“I believe that the president, at least people that I know that have talked to President Trump that is, is on board with it, too,” McCormick said on the Wednesday call, according to audio obtained by POLITICO.

“But every now and then he’ll get asked about it, like he did on Laura Ingraham a couple of weeks ago, and he’ll say, ‘I don’t trust those mail-in ballots,’” McCormick added. “And it’s really hard to get our people to apply for the mail-in ballots if the guy at the top of the ticket — so to make this work, he’s gonna have to come out” in support of mail-in voting.

The Republican is set to face Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) in what’s expected to be a close Senate race in a presidential swing state; McCormick narrowly lost the 2022 GOP primary to Mehmet Oz and sought during the closely contested race to allow more mail-in votes to be counted.

After avoiding another divisive Keystone State primary this cycle, Republicans hope McCormick can beat a third-term incumbent who has won previous races handily.

McCormick predicted he will win in a close race by 1 or 2 points. And to boost the tough fight heading into November, his campaign said they support conservative groups working to boost GOP mail-in participation.

“Our teams are working together on efforts to win Pennsylvania, and are both supportive of Republican-led vote by mail efforts,” a McCormick aide said on Thursday.

But Trump has repeatedly savaged mail-in voting, which was expanded in many states during the pandemic and the 2020 election. He declared in a Fox News town hall last month that “if you have mail-in voting, you automatically have fraud.” A spokesperson for Trump did not respond to a request for comment.

McCormick, a former hedge fund CEO, also cited two additional campaign worries: “Election integrity” and voter registration. He noted his party is making up the gap in registering Republican voters and also cited broad GOP base concerns about election security. Trump tried to overturn the 2020 election by falsely arguing the election was stolen from him, a move that hurt Senate candidates in Georgia in that cycle.

“However big you think the problem is, our voters think it’s a big problem,” McCormick said of elections. “And so if our voters think it’s a big problem, and they’re not going to vote because they don’t trust the elections, we’ve got a problem. So this is a big deal.”