Fetterman’s debate performance has Democrats tearing up

Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.), chairman of the party’s campaign committee, praised Fetterman for leading the debate rather than backtracking: “It was good that he led the debate. Because I believe he won, especially with the big gaffe that Dr. Oz made” on abortion.

« He’s recovering from a stroke and it’s taking a long time to recover, but I think the important thing was what he said, it’s not how he said it, » said Peters in an interview. “I have no doubt that John Fetterman, when he wins, will also be an exceptional senator.

Behind the scenes, however, some Democrats are questioning Fetterman’s decision to participate. Some even questioned whether Fetterman should have stayed in the race immediately after his stroke in May.

« I feel bad to say this, » said a Democratic official from Pennsylvania, « but if he continues to lose very closely, and then we lose the Senate 51-49 … that decision will really be reconsidered. »

For his part, Peters said he has no regrets that Fetterman remained the party’s nominee after the stroke. And rather than Fetterman’s miscommunications, Democrats believe the most enduring moment will be Oz’s remark that « women, doctors, local political leaders » should make decisions on abortion policy.

‘Oz lost the debate when he told voters in Pennsylvania that women should get permission from politicians like Doug Mastriano before they can have abortions,’ Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer told POLITICO , nominating the state’s GOP gubernatorial candidate.

Republicans were harsh in their assessment. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said in an interview that the whole episode was « incredibly painful » to watch.

« Everyone I’ve spoken to is flabbergasted that Fetterman’s campaign allowed him to debate in such an obviously inebriated state. I don’t know how anyone could objectively watch this performance and conclude anything other than: this guy can’t do this job,” Cruz said.

The Oz campaign, however, stuck to the policy. Brittany Yanick, spokeswoman for Oz, said « John Fetterman couldn’t defend any of his radical positions » and clarified that unlike Mastriano, Oz is in favor of certain abortion exemptions.

Larry Ceisler, a Pennsylvania-based public affairs consultant who has experience preparing Democratic candidates for debates, said he’s seen Fetterman speak in person consistently since his stroke. But Fetterman seemed unable to defend himself in the stressful situation or properly handle the parts of the debate that were within his control, Ceisler said.

“There were two things he should have been able to do and he should have been able to do it in a focused and effective way, and that was his opening statement and his closing statement,” he said. he declares. « Because it’s no different from [when] he is making a speech.

Seeking to draw attention to Oz, the Fetterman campaign announced almost immediately that it would air the television ad highlighting Oz’s comments on abortion. The Democratic team also revealed on Wednesday that it has raised more than $2 million since the debate. As Progressives streamed the Oz clip online on Twitter, it racked up nearly 6 million views as of Wednesday afternoon.

Fetterman’s adviser, Rebecca Katz, sought to downplay Democrats’ concerns, saying « the fact that he’s still standing and doing as well as he does in this race is because of his ties to many true Pennsylvanians ».

« I know there’s – I’m going to be a little graphic here – Democratic bedwetting out there, which is often typical of Democratic commentators and officials, » said Democratic Pennsylvania Senator Bob Casey, the one of Fetterman’s main substitutes. “Let’s avoid bedwetting and get people to vote. »

Former President Donald Trump’s super PAC, MAGA Inc., previously came out with an ad highlighting one of Fetterman’s verbal stumbles, stating that Fetterman « just isn’t okay. » A Republican official said the party could further highlight the muddled response to Fetterman’s debate over his past opposition to fracking.

Pennsylvania is the best opportunity for Democrats to land a GOP-held seat this year. If the Democrats could win Pennsylvania, it would be that much easier to hold onto their narrow 50-50 majority.

JB Poersch, chairman of the Schumer-aligned Senate Majority PAC, made it clear that his group is not changing its plans to spend millions promoting Fetterman in the final weeks of the race. He said « Oz confirmed voters’ worst fears » with his response on abortion.

Pennsylvania was a bright spot for Democrats this summer, but they have slowly become less confident about the state Senate race in recent weeks. Yet it remains a cornerstone of their political strategy.

“Your average voter is going to look at one simple thing: Which of these two guys, Fetterman or Oz, gets them and will fight for them? And they’re going to conclude Fetterman was knocked down, he got back up,” Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) said. « Nothing in this debate will change the outcome. »

There is precedent for how survivors of major health incidents have weathered Senate races. Former Sen. Tim Johnson (DS.D.) suffered a brain hemorrhage in 2006 but won re-election in 2008, while former Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) lost his re-election campaign in 2016 after being suffered a stroke in 2012. And former Missouri Governor Mel Carnahan (D) won a race for the Senate in 2000 after dying in a plane crash.

Although many Democrats still believe Fetterman will score a victory, Inside Democrats wonder if party leaders should have pressured him to suspend his campaign months ago. Democrats had until mid-August to replace Fetterman on the ballot through the State Department in case he ends his candidacy.

A Pennsylvania Democratic insider likened the situation to GOP officials’ inability to prevent Mastriano from winning the gubernatorial nomination, despite their fears of losing the general election. Fetterman won the primary by more than 32 percentage points, taking all counties, just days after suffering a stroke.

« The Pennsylvania Democratic establishment couldn’t say to John Fetterman, ‘Are you going to be able to run? And show me your medical records. And if not, you have to give up,” the person said.

Casey said such a move would have undermined « the will of the people » and that Fetterman made « the right decision ».

“We are going, in our infinite wisdom as political leaders, to choose someone and nominate them as a candidate? There would have been an extremely adverse reaction to that,” he said. « John will win. »


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