PITTSBURGH Washington County native David McCormick followed the announcement that he is forming an exploratory committee, his first step in joining Pennsylvania’s U.S. Senate race, by introducing himself directly to Pennsylvanians in a memorable TV ad (provided exclusively to the Washington Examiner below).

The ad touches on the improbable story of how his father shipped a live Christmas tree to him from the family farm to the Saudi-Iraq border in the middle of the 1991 Gulf War.

McCormick, in an exclusive interview with the Washington Examiner, said there they were in the desert, right on the Saudi-Iraq border, and the only things they were getting delivered there were letters and tiny packages.

“There were all sorts of restrictions on what you could send," he said. "And one day, in the middle of the desert in late December, a few days before Christmas, this huge box shows up, which probably violated all the rules, and inside of it was this beautiful live Christmas tree.” He said the moment was emotional for everyone he was serving with at that time.

“What must have happened is that at every step along the way where somebody had the chance to knock it out of the process, everybody probably saw the package that said ‘Christmas' and let it go through,” said McCormick.

In the ad, released here, McCormick said he wanted to introduce himself to Pennsylvanians who don’t know him through a moment that really meant a lot to him as a young soldier.

“Christmas is about unexpected blessings," he said. "And while being encouraged to run and represent my home state of Pennsylvania is unexpected, I feel blessed to have the support of so many across the state.”

McCormick, who for years has been a hedge fund manager, has already received the backing of former state party Chairman Rob Gleason. Gleason is an influential Cambria County Republican and was one of the few people who understood intuitively that Donald J. Trump was going to win Pennsylvania in the summer of 2016.

McCormick, who was born here, just outside of Pittsburgh, in 1965, moved with his family at the age of seven to Bloomsburg, where he excelled at academics, football, and wrestling, traits that ultimately earned him an appointment to West Point.

“It was kind of a big deal in my little town because nobody had gone to a military academy from Bloomsburg for decades, [and] there was even an article in our local paper,” he said of the civic pride the small town felt.

McCormick, who originally had his set heart on attending Penn State, said he ultimately decided to go to West Point, which turned out to be the greatest decision he could have made.

“I was the co-captain of the Army wrestling team, and then after I left West Point, after four years, I went to the 82nd Ranger School, Gulf War.”

While serving in the first Gulf War, McCormick received a Bronze Star. Following his military service, he earned a doctorate from Princeton University and then ran FreeMarkets, an online auction service for industrial equipment and services. After a stint as President George W. Bush's undersecretary of the Treasury Department for international affairs, he rejoined the private sector and earned his way up to chief executive of Bridgewater Associates, a global investment firm.

And he still owns the family farm in Bloomsburg.

He and his wife, Dina Powell, who served from 2017 - 2018 as the U.S. deputy national security adviser for strategy to President Donald Trump, just moved back here to Pittsburgh, purchasing a home a block from where he used to live several years ago when he ran FreeMarkets.

“I've got more than half of my life living in Pennsylvania, and then another 13 or 14 years not in Pennsylvania, in public service, public life," McCormick said. "And then the last 12 years I've been at Bridgewater. And so, for me, this is a real coming home. And I'm excited about it. And I'm happy to be back in the commonwealth.”

McCormick enters the race, where a large void exists after the exit of front-runner Sean Parnell, who left in the midst of a nasty battle with his estranged wife over custody of their children.

Television personality Dr. Mehmet Oz entered the race at the end of November, joining a field that already included Montgomery County real estate developer Jeff Bartos, conservative commentator Kathy Barnette, and Carla Sands, the former ambassador to Denmark.

While Trump narrowly lost Pennsylvania to Biden last November, down-ballot, the state became more conservative. Republicans won two out of the three statewide elected row offices, held healthy majorities in both the state House and state Senate in contests in which they were predicted to lose seats, and held two congressional seats in Dauphin and Bucks counties in house seats they were widely expected to lose.

Pennsylvania's continued shift to the center-right has not stopped the Democrats vying for the open seat in their primary, Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, outgoing Mt. Lebanon Rep. Conor Lamb, state Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta, and Montgomery County Chairwoman Val Arkoosh, from running far-left on policies.

Allegheny County Republican Committee Chairman Sam DeMarco said it is hard not to be impressed by McCormick: “He has served his country, worked on his family Christmas tree farm, so he knows how to get his hands dirty, but he also has an intellect about the economy that would serve as an important asset as someone that would represent a state as diverse as Pennsylvania is economically.”

Republicans know they have to hold on to the seat on their path to gain the majority in next year's midterm elections, while Democrats know they need to gain this seat for their path. In sum, this will be one of the most expensive and important races in next year's contests.