Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, the Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate in the Keystone State, appeared to struggle with his words at his first campaign rally since suffering a stroke in May.
Fetterman, typically a confident and competent public speaker, spoke at the Bayfront Convention Center Friday night in Erie, Pennsylvania, and made some uncharacteristic blunders, video from WTAE Pittsburgh shows. He struggled with words and took awkward pauses at times during his 11-minute-long remarks.
Wow – scary stuff.
Fetterman makes Joe Biden look totally lucid and healthy. https://t.co/fuioQ2N6it
— Donald Trump Jr. (@DonaldJTrumpJr) August 15, 2022
Fetterman began by taking a jab at his Republican opponent, Dr. Mehmet Oz, who has asserted Fetterman has hidden in his basement since suffering from the stroke.
“Wait a minute, am I in Erie, or have I fit 1,400 people into my basement?” he asked the crowd.
“Tonight, really, for me, it’s just about being grateful. Just grateful. Tomorrow, tomorrow it is — three months ago, my life could have ended. It’s the truth, but I’m so grateful to be here tonight as well,” he said.
As his concise remarks went on, Fetterman had a few faux pas and awkward pauses, including when he spoke about eliminating the filibuster.
“One of the differences between me and Dr. Oz, he has ten mansions; I gave away the lieutenant governor governor in Pennsylvania, the only lieutenant governor in the history to do that,” he said at one point, seemingly attempting to reference the lieutenant governor’s mansion.
Fetterman suffered a stroke on May 13, just days before the Democrat primary on May 17.
“I hadn’t been feeling well, but was so focused on the campaign that I ignored the signs and just kept going. On Friday it finally caught up with me,” he said in a statement at the time. “I had a stroke that was caused by a clot from my heart being in an A-fib rhythm for too long.”
The health complication did not affect the lieutenant governor’s chances on election day. He handily beat out his opponents, earning more than double the vote total of his nearest competitor. Oz squeaked out a primary victory over David McCormick, winning by less than a percentage point, though, of note, Republican turnout was higher than Democrat turnout. Both Oz and Fetterman are battling for outgoing Sen. Pat Toomey’s (R-PA) seat.
With his opponent’s return to the stage on Friday, Oz challenged him to five debates, as Bloomberg News noted. Fetterman has reportedly stated he would debate Oz but has not accepted any of the Republican’s proposals.
On Friday, I committed to 5 moderated debates. Fetterman STILL hasn’t agreed to any. Stop hiding, John.
— Dr. Mehmet Oz (@DrOz) August 14, 2022
Although he had not held a rally for three months, Fetterman continues to lead Oz in the polls, with many showing a large margin between the pair. A Fox News poll from the end of July found Oz’s support at 36 percent, 11-points behind Fetterman at 47 percent, and the Real Clear Politics average has Oz nine points down from the lieutenant governor. Though the celebrity doctor has faced troubling polling, Decision Desk HQ still rates the Pennsylvania Senate race as one of the top tossups in the nation, and with three months to go until election day, there is still plenty of time for the candidates’ poll numbers to move one way or another.