This GOP hopeful got on Trump's bad side last year. Now he might decide control of the Senate.

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PITTSBURGH — Dave McCormick really wants you to know he’s from Pennsylvania.

Flanked by two official state flags as he launched his second Senate campaign on Thursday in a museum devoted to western Pennsylvania history and named after the iconic Pittsburgh Heinz family, McCormick offered up a detailed family history to a cheering crowd. His ancestors had been in the state for some 200 years, he said. His dad was the state’s chancellor for higher education. He, himself, was a proud Bloomsburg High School Panther.

“I'm a seventh-generation Pennsylvanian. Born right here in Washington, Pa. right down Route 79,” he told supporters. “And as my dad will tell you my great, great, great, great, great grandfather immigrated from Ireland and settled in western Pennsylvania in the early 1800s.”

Control of the Senate could depend on McCormick’s ability to cast himself as a homegrown Army veteran. It's an authenticity attack that he also faced in his 2022 run and that Democrats successfully weaponized against the ultimate Republican nominee, Mehmet Oz. Now it's beginning anew as questions swirl about how much time McCormick spends on Connecticut’s Gold Coast as a wealthy financier.

Left largely unmentioned in his 15-minute announcement speech: His decades-long career on Wall Street, where he eventually served as CEO of one of the world’s most successful hedge funds. Still, McCormick’s personal wealth is not without upsides. National Republicans viewed their ability to persuade McCormick to run as a coup, in part because resources alone will ensure that Democrats have to spend in the state to protect incumbent Sen. Bob Casey.

The race is hugely consequential. Outside of their three red-state targets, Pennsylvania offers the GOP perhaps its best opportunity to reclaim a Senate majority, and Republican leaders have courted McCormick for months.

Shortly before his first run for Senate, McCormick sold his home in Fairfield, Conn., and purchased a home in Pittsburgh’s Squirrel Hill North neighborhood. But in the lead-up to his highly anticipated second campaign, McCormick faced a new round of questions about his Pennsylvania roots. The Associated Press reported that he had conducted virtual interviews from home in Westport, Conn. and that he did not receive a tax exemption on his Pittsburgh home that would classify it as his primary place of residence.

McCormick has been making the rounds to Republicans in the state, shoring up support and clearing the field. He traveled to the state Capitol in Harrisburg on Monday and met with the party’s failed 2022 gubernatorial nominee, Doug Mastriano — who had himself considered running against Casey. The gambit paid off. In an interview this week, Mastriano sounded like he would endorse McCormick, calling for the party to unify behind him. No other candidates have entered the race.

But even then, McCormick appeared to open himself up to more Connecticut attacks. The same day he met with Mastriano, flight records show that a plane co-owned by McCormick flew from Bridgeport, Conn. to Harrisburg, Pa. at 8:28 a.m. and then back later that afternoon. Even in the days leading up to his launch, it seems McCormick was not based in the state.

“It’s hugely damaging — Pennsylvania is nothing more so than very parochial,” said Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon (D-Pa.). “People don't stray too far from where they grew up. They raise their kids in the same neighborhood as their families and there are very deep roots.”

McCormick’s campaign notes that he is a divorced parent and that his daughter still attends school in Connecticut. He is a devoted father eager to spend time with his family, according to a campaign strategist who was granted anonymity to speak candidly.

His launch event served as a reset to stress his local roots. On the fifth floor of the Heinz History Center, which memorializes the history of Pittsburgh, attendees mingled by an open bar and platters of crudite while the Cellular Sessions, billed as Pennsylvania's “premier acoustic cover band,” blared out covers ranging from Taylor Swift to Portugal. The Man. Supporters packed into the event and interrupted their candidate’s speech to chant “Dave.”

By many standards, McCormick is an impressive candidate. In his first campaign, he started out as a little-known businessman and came within 1,000 votes of beating a celebrity candidate backed by former President Donald Trump.

But McCormick’s jaunt to the capital to court Mastriano was evidence that even he understands the need to bolster his credentials with the GOP’s MAGA base. He clashed somewhat with Trump in his 2022 race, and the former president endorsed Oz, propelling Oz to the nomination only to see him lose the seat in the fall to Democrat John Fetterman.

McCormick had previously chided Trump’s rhetoric and said he blamed him for the “polarization” and “divisiveness” that festered during his term in office. While weighing a run against Casey this year, McCormick was carefully considering whether he wanted to share a ticket with Trump, who lost Pennsylvania in 2020 but won it in 2016.

McCormick allies are working to bridge that gap. Rep. Dan Meuser (R-Pa.), an enthusiastic endorser of Trump, said he has urged the former president to let “bygones be bygones.”

“They need to work together,” he said. “I think President Trump, frankly — who I'm supporting — needs to kind of do what he can to kind of make up with Dave McCormick so they both can be moving forward in the same positive direction.”

McCormick also has the endorsement of party leaders, including Senate GOP campaign chief Steve Daines, who is close to Trump and consults with him frequently on the Senate map. The National Republican Senatorial Committee has sought to land candidates who will appeal to a broad array of voters after a cycle where Trump-backed candidates lose key races.

“Dave is exactly the type of candidate who can win both a primary and a general election in one of the most competitive states in the country,” Daines said in a statement.

McCormick campaign strategists stressed that they are trying to build as wide a coalition as possible. And Republicans believe that McCormick’s strength with moderate and independent voters in the suburbs, combined with Trump’s ability to turn out rural and working class voters, is a winning combination.

In his campaign opener, McCormick stressed a desire to “unify the Republican Party in our great commonwealth” and win over voters “regardless of their party.”

McCormick boasts a degree from West Point, served in the Bush era Treasury Department and has had a wildly successful career in finance. But in some ways, his résumé is one of a bygone GOP, seemingly out of place in today’s iteration of a party that thrives on populism.

Even Republicans admit Casey will not be easy to dislodge. A three-term senator and the son of a two-term governor, Casey is a strong fundraiser with enduring strength with white, working-class voters, a critical constituency here. He’s won all of his Senate elections by nearly or more than double digits.

“Casey is going to win and win big,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in a brief interview the day before McCormick launched.

Democrats are already working at it. On Thursday night, the Pennsylvania Democratic Party paid for a plane to circle the Heinz Center with a sign trailing behind.

It read: “Welcome to Pennsylvania, Dave.”