John Fetterman’s Difficult Debate in Pennsylvania Senate Election Causes Unrest

HARRISBURG, Pa. — Pennsylvania Democrat John Fetterman’s difficult debate performance fueled concerns within his party on Wednesday.

Pennsylvania’s 53-year-old Lieutenant Governor Fetterman took the stage five months after his stroke, struggling to complete sentences and jumbled up words throughout the hour-long telecast.

This came as no surprise to medical professionals who noted that this format, including the time limit for responses, is the exact opposite of what stroke survivors need to support communication. , for those who have known Fetterman for years, this argument was a reminder that even before his stroke, he was never a smooth orator.

But some Democrats expressed concern that Fetterman’s attendance at Tuesday night’s debate was a mistake, as his campaign is heavily swayed. He would have been criticized for skipping the forums, but felt it might have been better than exposing him to such a difficult environment. Contest closing date.

“In retrospect, he probably shouldn’t have debated,” Democratic former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell said in an interview. “But the important thing is that he is recovering from his stroke.”

“The only way to get out of this situation is for John to go out in public as much as he can, show up, be interviewed, do everything he can to let people know he’s ready. it is,” he added. take office. “

In fact, Fetterman was appearing at a rally in Pittsburgh late Wednesday with musician Dave Matthews. He’s also scheduled to attend a State Democratic Party dinner led by Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris in Philadelphia on Friday night.

His campaign did not respond to a request for an interview on Wednesday. He said he had already raised more than $2 million.

During the debate, the Democratic senator candidate newly refused to commit to releasing his medical records, but an independent expert consulted by the Associated Press said Fetterman is recovering remarkably well. He said it looked like there was.

“In my opinion, he did very well,” said Dr. Sonia Sheth of Northwestern Medicine Marianjoy Rehabilitation Hospital outside Chicago, who was watching the debate. “He had a stroke less than a year ago.” There were a few mistakes in his answers, but overall I was able to produce fluent and thoughtful answers.”

Still, for Brooke Hatfield, a speech pathologist in Maryland who has worked extensively with stroke patients, the debate has been difficult to watch.

“Putting someone on a timer puts pressure on a system that is already working hard,” said Hatfield. “Ultimately, it’s important to remember that changes in communication are different than changes in intelligence, reasoning, and other cognitive skills.”

For now, the political implications of this debate are unclear.

The Pennsylvania election represents the best opportunity for Democrats to overturn Senate seats currently held by Republicans who are actively challenging Democratic incumbents in Arizona, Georgia, Nevada and New Hampshire. increase. Any change in Pennsylvania, where at least 639,000 mail-in ballots have already been returned, could jeopardize the Democrats’ efforts to keep the Senate.

Democratic Rep. Chris Coons told CNN Wednesday that the debate was “frankly hard to watch.”

But he said voters were faced with a “hard choice” between Fetterman and Oz, a heart surgeon and TV personality.

No other U.S. senator has had a stroke, but none faced a hotly contested contest so quickly. Senators Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and Ben Ray Lujan (DN.M.) revealed they suffered a minor stroke earlier this year. Van Hollen is likely to be reelected easily in states with strong democracies this year, and Lujan won’t be re-elected until 2026.

Former Senator Mark Kirk (R-Illinois) suffered a severe stroke in 2012 and missed re-election four years later.

Over the years, many other senators have faced age-related questions. Republican Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa will be 95 at the end of his next term, assuming he is re-elected on Nov. 8.

Fetterman’s campaign and other Democrats Wednesday tried to focus on Oz’s comments on abortion during the debate. He said he hoped it would be decided and suggested that he believed public officials had a role in determining whether women could have abortions, which is still legal in Pennsylvania.

Fetterman’s new ad focuses on Oz’s reference to “local political leaders,” repeating the phrase three times in 30-second spots.

“Oz would allow politicians like Doug Mastriano to ban abortion without exception,” says the narrator, referring to the state’s polarizing Republican gubernatorial candidate. “Oz is too extreme for Pennsylvania”

Biden shared a new ad on social media.

The White House did not say whether Biden watched the debate. But press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Biden had found Fetterman capable of governing “as usual.”

“In conversations with Lieutenant Governor Fetterman, he found the lieutenant governor to be a strong and genuine advocate for the middle class,” said Jean-Pierre, adding that the president was “unbelievable. I think it’s pretty impressive,” he added.

Meanwhile, Oz on Wednesday was attending an event in the state capital with potential 2024 Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley, a former UN ambassador. , avoided Fetterman’s health at the event and focused instead on crime.

“I hereby pledge as a U.S. Senator to do what is right for our communities,” he declared. “Among them, I’m going to let the police do their job. I want prosecutors to do their job.”

But the debate was on the minds of many voters.

Barbara Orr, a psychotherapist and registered Democrat who supports Fetterman, said she and a group of like-minded friends who watched the debate felt sad and nervous but voted for him. He said he was unfazed by their decision to do so.

“It hurts for him,” she said, worrying that voters who were unfamiliar with the candidate would give a bad impression.

“Unfortunately, people who don’t know what he stands for and who haven’t heard of him elsewhere may think he’s not smart,” says Ol, who lives in Lampeter. Told.

She added:

Frank Maron, a 61-year-old driving instructor and Democratic voter in suburban Philadelphia, said Fetterman “seemed unsure of himself.”

“Yes, I know about disability,” Mallon said. “Do you think everyone who watched the debate knew about his disability? No, I don’t.”

He said he would still vote for Fetterman.

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Fetterman’s allies noted that he also performed poorly in the primary debate earlier in the year before his stroke.

“For a while, we have to make peace with the people. “His performance was actually better than I expected.”

Meanwhile, it’s unclear how much attention Pennsylvania voters had.

Bonnie Chan, a telecoms retiree from Doylestown who calls herself a supporter of the liberal Fetterman, disagreed.

“I didn’t watch the debate because I was so scared,” Chan said. “First of all, Oz is a TV guy. He’s honed his skills. … I think Fetterman is in a no-win situation. He’s recovering from a stroke.”

“I am happy to give him time to recover.”

Peoples reported from New York. Karla K. Johnson, AP writer from Washington State. Mike Catalini of Morrisville, Pennsylvania. and Seung Min Kim of Washington DC contributed.

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