HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – WHTM is reporting… Democratic Pennsylvania Senate candidate John Fetterman is stepping up his public appearances after weeks of heavy scrutiny over his health — including from Republican opponent Mehmet Oz. Over the weekend, Fetterman drew a crowd of 1,000 at a Scranton rally and is slated to hold another rally in Philadelphia this weekend. The campaign said they saw a crowd of 3,000 attend a rally with Fetterman and Planned Parenthood earlier this month in Philadelphia, the same day as the home opener for the Philadelphia Eagles, no less. “In eastern Pennsylvania, [that’s] a pretty big flex,” said one Democratic operative with ties to the race.
The change in pace for the Fetterman campaign comes as Oz and Republicans have sought to portray the lieutenant governor as weak and absent from the campaign trail following a stroke he suffered in May. “We’re really seeing something really special play out here in Pennsylvania,” said Fetterman campaign spokesperson Joe Calvello. “Now we’re back out there and I think people are hungry.” Oz’s allies, on the other hand, argue that Fetterman’s rallies aren’t necessarily a sign of transparency. “Yes, Fetterman has held some rallies, but he still doesn’t take any questions,” said one Republican strategist, who noted that Oz has done local and national interviews. Fetterman has recently given interviews to The New York Times, Politico and MSNBC.
Fetterman also recently agreed to an Oct. 25 televised debate in Harrisburg after weeks of pressure from the Oz campaign. The lieutenant governor also faced pressure from the press, with The Washington Post and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette arguing he should commit to debating Oz for the sake of transparency for the voters. But the Fetterman campaign has maintained that debating was never off the table for them, saying that the timing was just a matter of dealing with the lingering effects of the stroke, including ones related to auditory processing. Yet the back-and-forth over the televised forum did not end with Fetterman agreeing to the debate.
Shortly after Fetterman announced he was attending the forum, the Oz campaign rolled out a statement demanding that the Fetterman campaign agree to three conditions: that the moderator explain that Fetterman is using a closed-captioning system, that questions in practice sessions do not resemble the questions in the live debate and that the debate would be extended from 60 minutes to 90 minutes.