Fetterman’s absence raises the stakes for Democrats in key Senate race

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Democrat John Fetterman posted a whopping $11 million in fundraising in the second quarter. He is on a publicity spree that has made him a near-constant presence on Pennsylvania television. And he draws attention with sarcastic and irreverent posts on social media.

The only thing missing from one of the most competitive US Senate races this year is the candidate himself.

Fetterman, 52, has yet to return to the campaign trail in any meaningful way since May 13 coup required surgery to implant a pacemaker with a defibrillator and prompted a revelation that had serious heart disease.

The commercials currently on the air were recorded before the stroke. He has not answered questions from the press. And when Fetterman, who was wearing a hoodie and shorts, made an appearance on the campaign trail, she did so under tightly controlled circumstances and without warning to reporters.

Democrats’ hopes of maintaining, or even expanding, their fragile Senate majority hinge on the party’s ability to capture the seat to be vacated by Republican Sen. Pat Toomey. And with just two months to go before voters can start casting their ballots by mail, Fetterman is absent from traditional retail campaigns.

But in an election year that raises anxiety among Democrats, party officials in Pennsylvania say they are no longer worried about Fetterman’s campaign and are repeatedly told he will be fine.

“The campaign told me they thought mid-July would start coming out,” said Joe Foster, who recently retired as party chairman in densely populated Montgomery County.

Fetterman’s campaign has provided few details about Fetterman’s health since early June, though it acknowledges that he has not fully recovered from the stroke and sometimes struggles to speak fluently. But they don’t intend to wait for a full recovery and say Fetterman will soon be on the campaign trail.

The next may be a July 21 fundraiser scheduled with Pennsylvania Democratic Jewish Outreach. Fetterman, the state’s lieutenant governor, was expected to speak there, though his campaign has not said whether those comments will be delivered virtually or in person at the event in suburban Philadelphia.

Democrats, meanwhile, are comfortable with what they perceive to be a relatively quiet campaign by Fetterman’s Republican opponent, Dr. Mehmet Oz.

since for little win the republican nominationthe celebrated cardiac surgeon has campaigned in more than 40, according to his campaign account, largely in low-key affairs such as walk-ins to businesses, dinners and trade shows.

He also took time out to attend Michael Rubin’s party in the ritzy Hamptons on Long Island on July 4th and gave a keynote address at the May annual meeting in Boca Raton, Florida, for the Direct Selling Association, a trade group for “multi-level marketing” companies like Amway. .

Then there was the campaign video he shot: In his sprawling home in Cliffside Park, New Jersey, just across the Hudson River from Manhattan, where he practiced medicine, he shot his daytime TV show “The Dr. Oz Show.” and lived for more than two decades before seeking the Pennsylvania Senate seat.

That played perfectly into the hands of the Fetterman campaign, which had already been attacking Oz as a fabulously wealthy New Jersey hoarder out of touch with regular Pennsylvanians.

“Pro tip: Don’t shoot an ad for your Pennsylvania Senate campaign from your New Jersey mansion,” Fetterman’s campaign tweeted.

A television ad for Fetterman now on the air, taped before his stroke in May, shows Fetterman calling the race a “pivotal choice” between himself, who entered politics to be mayor of Pennsylvania, versus Oz, who “He just moved here to run for office.” ”

Refers to a news report about Oz Financial Disclosure that his assets are worth at least $104 million and shows pictures of Oz in February laying and kissing his new star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

“Hey, Doc Hollywood, save your money, Pennsylvania is not for sale,” says Fetterman.

Fetterman then flew a plane over weekend beachgoers on the New Jersey shore with a sign reading, “HEY DR. OZ, WELCOME HOME TO NJ! ♥ JOHN.”

In perhaps the biggest trolling yet, the Fetterman campaign released a video on Thursday featuring Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi, star of the infamous MTV show “Jersey Shore,” telling Oz she heard she moved to Pennsylvania to look for work and She assured him not to worry “because he’ll be back home in Jersey soon. This is only temporary so good luck you got this and Jersey loves you.”

Then he blew her a kiss.

In any case, Oz may have more important tasks than proving his Pennsylvania roots.

He is coming off a hotly contested primary campaign in which he absorbed more than $20 million in attack ads questioning his devotion to conservative principles on things like guns and abortion.

Even with former President Donald Trump’s endorsementOz endured three weeks of counting and counting before declaring victory by fewer than 1,000 votes, or less than a tenth of a percentage point, over former hedge fund CEO David McCormick.

That raised questions about whether Oz can unify Republicans heading into the general election.

For now, Oz is focusing his campaign on the GOP’s core messages, in particular blaming rising inflation on President Joe Biden’s policies and trying to paint Fetterman as an extremist.

On Thursday, Oz posted a 60-second campaign video online that showed him running in a park and welcoming Fetterman to the campaign.

“I’m glad Fetterman is healthy,” Oz says, “so we can worry less about his heart and his hoodie and more about the crazy leftist ideas in his head.”

Republican officials say they are confident in Oz’s ability to appeal to the moderates who are critical to victory in the swing state, and Oz is getting help from the Koch-backed grassroots organization Americans for Prosperity and the National Republican Senatorial Committee. .

The NRSC has also worked to raise questions in the minds of voters about Fetterman’s health.

Last week, he created a fake “Have you seen this person?” online poster, showing Fetterman’s face below that ominous question and, in the bio, this information: “Last seen: 05/13/2022.”

That was the day of Fetterman’s stroke, just before a campaign event in Millersville.

While largely out of the public eye, Fetterman is still making fundraising calls and holding meetings with campaign staff, according to a campaign spokesperson.

She’s living a relatively normal domestic life, doing chores like picking up her kids and running to the grocery store, going out to dinner and taking day trips to Erie and Johnstown and vacations to the Jersey shore.

An avid walker, Fetterman is racking up the miles, including nearly five miles on Tuesday, the campaign spokesman said.

The campaign has released edited video clips of Fetterman, including an impromptu appearance last Saturday at a volunteer training session in which he briefly addressed volunteers.

“I feel great, and we’ll be back on the road soon,” Fetterman told the volunteers, somewhat hesitantly. “We are almost at 100%.”


Follow AP for full coverage of midterms at https://apnews.com/hub/2022-midterm-elections and on Twitter at https://twitter.com/ap_politics. Follow Marc Levy on Twitter at https://twitter.com/timelywriter


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