Fetterman And Oz Face off in Pennsylvania Exclusive Senate Debate

The highly anticipated debate in the Pennsylvania’s Senate race was held Tuesday night — the only time this fall that Republican Mehmet Oz and Democrat John Fetterman shared a stage, as they each vie for a seat that could tip the balance in Congress’ evenly divided top chamber.

The first and only debate between Democrat John Fetterman and Republican Mehmet Oz quickly devolved into a series of personal and biting attacks in what has become the highest stakes Senate race in the country. Much of the attention headed into the debate was on Fetterman’s ongoing recovery from a stroke he suffered in May and how the Democrat’s struggle with auditory processing and speech could impact a debate against someone who rose to national prominence hosting a syndicated television show. Throughout the night, Fetterman’s delivery was at times halting and repetitive, with the Democrat dropping words during answers and occasionally losing his train of thought.

But the debate also emphasized the deep policy differences between the candidates, with the two candidates sparring over energy policy, abortion and the economy.

Oz clearly entered the debate hoping to cast Fetterman as someone too extreme to represent Pennsylvania, using the term “extreme” countless times to describe several the Democrat’s positions. And Fetterman, in an effort to quickly negate many of criticisms, used the phrase the “Oz rule” to describe his opponent’s relationship with the truth.

HARRISBURG, Pa. -Pennsylvania Democrat John Fetterman wouldn’t commit to releasing his full medical records during a highly anticipated debate against Republican Mehmet Oz on Tuesday in the ABC27 Studios, speaking haltingly throughout the hourlong event more than five months after experiencing a stroke.

Fetterman, Pennsylvania’s 53-year-old lieutenant governor, has acknowledged that he “almost died” after suffering a stroke in May. On Tuesday night, he addressed what he called the “elephant in the room.”

“I had a stroke. He’s never let me forget that,” Fetterman said of his Republican opponent. “And I might miss some words during this debate, mush two words together, but it knocked me down and I’m going to keep coming back up.”

He also quickly tried to go on offense by attacking Oz’s “gigantic mansions” and his integrity.

Stroke rehabilitation specialist Dr. Sonia Sheth, who watched the debate, called Fetterman an inspiration to stroke survivors.

“In my opinion, he did very well,” said Sheth of Northwestern Medicine Marianjoy Rehabilitation Hospital in suburban Chicago. “He had his stroke less than one year ago and will continue to recover over the next year. He had some errors in his responses, but overall he was able to formulate fluent, thoughtful answers.”

The meeting was the first and only major statewide debate this year in Pennsylvania, since Democrat Josh Shapiro and Republican Doug Mastriano couldn’t reach an agreement on terms for a gubernatorial debate.

Fetterman Struggles On Fracking

Fetterman struggled to detail his position on fracking, given he once said he never supported the industry and “never” will.

Oz came prepared on the issue, hitting Fetterman when asked about it.

“He supports Biden’s desire to ban fracking on public lands, which are our lands, all of our lands together,” Oz said. “This is an extreme position on energy. If we unleashed our energy here in Pennsylvania, it would help everybody.”

When Oz raised Fetterman’s comments about fracking, Fetterman pushed back.

“I absolutely support fracking,” Fetterman said. “I believe that we need independence with energy and I believe I have walked that line my entire career.”

He added, “I have always supported fracking and I always believe independence with our energy is critical.”

But that isn’t true – Fetterman has a long history of antipathy toward the practice of injecting water into shale formations to free up deposits of oil and natural gas that were not economically accessible before.

“I don’t support fracking at all and I never have,” Fetterman told a left-wing YouTube channel in 2018 when running for lieutenant governor. “And I’ve, I’ve signed the no fossil fuels money pledge. I have never received a dime from any natural gas or oil company whatsoever.”

When the moderators noted that position, Fetterman appeared at a loss for words.

“I do support fracking and I don’t, I don’t, I support fracking and I stand and I do support fracking,” Fetterman said.

Oz Dodges – Again – On Abortion

Oz has declined for weeks to give a firm answer about how he would vote on a bill proposed South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham that would ban abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy.

And this debate was no different.

“There should not be involvement from the federal government in how states decide their abortion decisions,” Oz said when asked about abortion, before turning the issue on Fetterman and calling him “radical” and “extreme.”

But when directly asked how he would vote on the Graham bill, Oz declined to answer, claiming he was giving a bigger answer by saying he was “not going to support federal rules that block the ability of states to do what they wish to do.”

The lack of an answer gave Fetterman an opening.

“I want to look into the face of every woman in Pennsylvania,” Fetterman said. “You know, if you believe that the choice of your reproductive freedom belongs with Dr. Oz then you have a choice. But if you believe that the choice for abortion belongs with you and your doctor, that’s what I fight for. Roe v Wade for me is, should be the law.”

Should Fetterman Have Debated?

The Fetterman campaign went to great lengths to avoid debating – until the criticism from editorial boards, the Oz campaign and others became too untenable to keep resisting.

After watching the debate in Harrisburg, even though Fetterman’s speech has shown signs of considerable improvement with every passing week since his May stroke, it’s an open question whether it was a wise decision to put him on the stage with Oz. It was, at many points, difficult to watch.

Most, if not all, Democrats will almost certainly give him the benefit of the doubt, but it’s an open question whether voters will.

Fetterman struggled to prosecute a consistent case against Oz and to keep up with the speed of the hourlong debate. Oz, for his part, rarely talked about his rival’s recovery from a May stroke. Of course, he didn’t have to.

If any Pennsylvania voters missed the debate, not to worry.

If any Pennsylvania voters missed the debate, not to worry.

There’s sure to be millions of dollars worth of new ads – replaying many of the uncomfortable moments – from the top Republican super PAC that doubled down on the race earlier Tuesday.

Do debates matter? In less than two weeks, Pennsylvania voters will help answer that question. But this one will certainly reverberate for the rest of the campaign.

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