John Fetterman won the U.S. Senate race in Pennsylvania, beating out Trump-backed celebrity Dr. Mehmet Oz and overcoming concerns that his stroke recovery had foreclosed his chances at victory.
The race was called by NBC News and Fox News.
Fetterman, the state’s lieutenant governor, had been leading in the polls by significant margins over the summer, but television host Oz started to close the gap in recent weeks, particularly after the rocky debate performance by Fetterman.
The lieutenant governor suffered a stroke just before the primary in May and has relied on closed captioning in recent interviews and the debate.
Independent analysts had predicted the Pennsylvania race would be the best chance for Democrats to pick up a Republican-held Senate seat. Fetterman and Oz have been vying for the open seat created by Republican Sen. Pat Toomey’s retirement.
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Fetterman’s campaign released a letter from his doctor ahead of the debate in October, saying his communication skills had significantly improved since the stroke with help from speech therapy. But he struggled to complete sentences during the debate, leading some Democrats to question whether he should have participated in the first place.
The faceoff between Fetterman and Oz was seen as a key test of former president Donald Trump’s sway. Trump endorsed Oz during the crowded Republican primary, saying Pennsylvania voters had “a tremendous opportunity to Save America by electing the brilliant and well-known” Oz, a cardiothoracic surgeon and TV host known as “Dr. Oz.”
The former president said he had known the doctor “for many years, as have many others, even if only through his very successful television show” and noted Oz’s medical advice: “He even said that I was in extraordinary health, which made me like him even more (although he also said I should lose a couple of pounds!).”
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Fetterman said after his halting debate performance that he knew it “wasn’t going to be easy after having a stroke” but “I got knocked down but I got back up. I’m going to fight for everyone in PA who ever got knocked down that ever had to get back up.”
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The onetime mayor of Braddock, Pennsylvania, Fetterman has advocated for expanding vocational education, making public universities more affordable, supporting and expanding social security, and decriminalizing marijuana. He has lashed out at Oz’s lack of political experience.
“All he’s done is just put a plan up on his website…He has no experience. He has never made any attempt to try to address crime,” Fetterman said during the debate last month.
Oz supports boosting domestic energy production by reducing fossil fuel industry regulation. He said the United States should be tougher on Chinese trade policies and militarism. And he asserted that government regulation and policies caused unnecessary suffering during COVID-19.
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The race was also one of the “core four” for Republicans seeking to take over the Senate. Republicans and aligned political action committees poured millions into Pennsylvania in the run-up to the election.
The ensuing barrage of ads – $47 million worth from the Senate Leadership Fund alone – accused Fetterman of being soft on crime and too liberal for Pennsylvania. They helped drive up his unfavorable rating a whopping 17 points, to 44%, according to a USA TODAY/Suffolk University poll released last month.
Oz also had a high unfavorable rating – 51%, worse than Fetterman’s.
“If you can’t get people to like you, get them to dislike your opponent,” David Paleologos, director of the Suffolk Political Research Center told USA TODAY at the time. “This is a textbook strategy of Oz driving up his opponent’s unfavorability to make the race closer.”
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Story Credit: usatoday.com