Fetterman’s performance on Friday was closely watched by leaders and strategists from both sides. The Pennsylvania game between Fetterman and famed physician Mehmet Oz is widely seen as the best chance in the country for Democrats to turn over a seat in the Senate. For the GOP, hold on to the seat now occupied by Republican Sen. Pat Toomey is crucial to regain the majority.
Fetterman tried to ease the tension during the rally by opening his speech with a sarcastic sentence about his opponent’s attacks. Oz has criticized Fetterman for not appearing in public since his stroke, and issued a press release Thursday that read, “91 days since Fetterman left his basement.”
“Wait, are we in Erie?” said Fetterman, joking about having “1400 people in my basement.”
Fetterman, wearing his signature black Carhartt hoodie, attacked Oz during the rally like a rich carpet bagger. He also tried to play out his Pennsylvania roots, with his staff handing out yellow Fetterman-branded towels inspired by the Pittsburgh Steelers’ “Terrible Towel.” He stood in front of a sign on the podium that read “Every County Every Vote,” the motto of his campaign.
Fetterman has made Oz’s New Jersey tires a major theme in his Senate bid. Even when he was sidelined while recovering from a stroke, Fetterman received positive headlines for trolling Oz on social media, including enlisting New Jersey reality TV star Snooki to shoot a video. take that reads “Jersey won’t forget you.” Oz lived in New Jersey for decades until recently, although he attended school and married in Pennsylvania.
“He’s a native of New Jersey. He doesn’t live here,” Fetterman said. “He’s not about us. He doesn’t care about us.”
In a statement, Oz communications director Brittany Yanick said, “John Fetterman refuses to be honest with the Pennsylvanians or the press about his radical policies and his history as a no-show for the commonwealth.” According to Oz’s team, the Republican has held more than 140 campaign-related events since June.
“Dr. Mehmet Oz campaigns across the commonwealth, listens and shares the concerns of the people he meets, and stands up for Pennsylvanians unlike John Fetterman,” said Yanick. “Pennsylvanians now deserve answers from Fetterman. It’s been way too long. ”
On Friday, Fetterman seemed physically healthy and usually spoke without a problem. At times, however, his speech had fallen somewhat silent.
In interviews with reporters, Fetterman has said he is physically and mentally able to withstand the rigors of a Senate campaign, and his doctor has said he should be able to serve as long as he follows his orders. But Fetterman has admitted that he sometimes stumbles over his words and has trouble hearing as he continues to recover.
Fetterman spoke for 10 minutes during the rally and did not answer questions from the news media. He has done only two interviews with reporters since his stroke.
By holding the event on Friday night in Erie, Fetterman was able to campaign in one of the state’s major clock districts — as well as make his reintroduction to voters at a time and place where the coverage is less high-wattage than it would be during a weekday. bigger city.
“The reason he goes to Erie is because it’s Erie — as off Broadway as you can get in Pa,” Christopher Nicholas, a Pennsylvania-based GOP consultant, said before the event. “So if he flops, it’ll be in the state’s smallest media market.”
Fetterman said Friday that wearing Erie is key to his campaign’s success: “If you can’t win Erie County, you can’t win Pennsylvania.”
Fetterman has been back on the campaign trail since last month, when he traveled to the Philadelphia area to attend three private fundraisers. Since then, he’s gone to two additional big-money personal events.
Despite his absence on the track, Fetterman has led Oz in both polls and fundraising. A recent Fox News poll found him 11 percentage points ahead of Oz.
Fetterman boasted about the poll, adding that he would campaign as if he was behind anyway.
“Have you seen the polls? Some of them seven, eight, nine, ten, even 15 points higher,” he said. “We will always run like we are always five points behind.”
Fetterman reiterated his campaign promise to be the “51st vote” for the Democratic agenda and eliminate the filibuster to “get some stuff done for America.”
Oz tried to keep the pressure on Fetterman on Friday by calling on him to agree to debates five hours before his meeting. Fetterman’s campaign dismissed the plea as “an obvious and pathetic attempt to change the subject”. Fetterman’s aides said he would debate, but gave no details.
According to Fetterman staff, nearly 1,400 people attended the event on Friday.
“Do you think Dr. Oz can fill a room like this?” Fetterman asked at the meeting, saying he got three times as many votes in Erie County as Oz.