Candidate Fetterman Holds Rally, Concedes ‘Mushing Words Together’

PITTSBURGH – Tribune News Service is reporting… John Fetterman, recently criticized by some Democrats for his lack of a campaign presence in Pennsylvania’s major cities, was all-in on Pittsburgh at a rainy public rally in the Strip District on Saturday as the race for Pennsylvania’s U.S. Senate seat draws nearer.  After walking out to “Renegade,” the 1979 Styx song that receives regular play at Steelers’ home games, Mr. Fetterman pitched a sort of yinzer-inflected populism as he rallied in front of a crowd of more than 600 people in a parking lot along Smallman Street.  “I’m kind of a Heinz Stadium, Dr. Oz is more of an Acrisure Stadium,” he said of his opponent Nov. 8, Republican Mehmet Oz.

Throughout most of his 12-minute speech, Mr. Fetterman hit on now-familiar talking points in his campaign. He mocked his opponent for his New Jersey residency, casting him as out of touch with Pennsylvanians, and criticized his television show for promoting dubious “cures.”

United Steelworkers District 10 President Bernie Hall and U.S. Rep. Ro Khanna, of California’s 17th District, appeared ahead of Mr. Fetterman, who has been criticized in recent weeks by left-leaning activists and officials for what they consider a lack of attention on major cities like Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, Democratic strongholds where he is likely to pick up a majority of votes.

Much of his campaign has been focused on what he calls an “Every county, Every vote” approach, speaking in areas more likely to vote Republican, including a recent event in Indiana County.

Refocusing his attention on the Pittsburgh region on Saturday, Mr. Fetterman boasted about his record on tackling crime while he was mayor of Braddock, as well as emphasizing his support of labor unions and abortion access.

Perhaps sensing the crowd reacting to a couple of small pauses in his prepared remarks, he also spoke at some length about the stroke he suffered in May, a factor that Mr. Oz’s campaign has targeted as a weakness.

“As you know, I had a stroke, and I’m so grateful to be here today now after surviving that,” he said. “But, you know, really, you know, the only lingering issue I have after that stroke is auditory processing sometimes, and every now and then I might miss a word or, sometimes, you know, I might mush two words together.”

Citing an example, he again referenced a video in which his opponent mispronounced the name of the grocery chain “Wegman’s” as “Wegner’s,” hitting on a running theme of using popular internet memes to ridicule Mr. Oz and his online presence, particularly on Twitter.

“Dr. Oz never stops reminding everybody that I had a stroke,” Mr. Fetterman said. “In fact I’m sure there’s probably at least one person here that are filming it, trying to have me miss some words on video.

“What an inspiring campaign for you, Dr. Oz,” he said. “Your success is measured in how many words I might miss.”

Mr. Fetterman spoke for most of the speech with clarity, although some stumbles were unmistakable. After asking whether anyone in the crowd had ever experienced a health challenge, he botched a line that has become a recent mainstay in his rallies.

“I sure hope that there was no one in your life making fun of a doctor of you,” he said, seemingly meaning to say he hoped no one had a doctor who made fun of a person’s health problems. He proceeded through most of these slips without clarifying or correcting himself.

Also appearing at the rally were Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey, state Rep. Summer Lee, of Swissvale, and former Steeler Franco Harris, who led the crowd in chants of, “We will vote.” and, “We will win.”

“Do we have a great senator in John Fetterman?” Mr. Harris asked. “Yeah, baby.”

Supporters waved sopping black-and-gold signs and Terrible Towels as they stood in nonstop rain for over an hour to hear Mr. Fetterman.

But not all who came to see him speak were Democrats. Brandi Hanan, 38, of Cranberry, was the first in line to see Mr. Fetterman speak even though she said she doesn’t identify with any political affiliation.

“I think I am leaning towards Fetterman, but I want to do my due diligence, see what he has to say, see if it aligns with everything I’m looking for,” she said.

The issues concerning Ms. Hanan, who served in the Air Force, included supporting abortion rights, funding more robust mental health resources from the Department of Veterans Affairs and combating the rise in homelessness in Pittsburgh

“I have hated Dr. Oz for years,” she said. “He’s always pushing some kind of life-saving weight loss pill that costs a fortune, that doesn’t do anything.”

Eric and Maureen Fischer, a couple from McCandless, came to support Mr. Fetterman and said they’re going to vote for him in November.

“He’s a straight shooter,” said Mr. Fischer, 61. “I mean, he tells you what he is going to do, he doesn’t hold any punches, he doesn’t play games. We support the positions that he supports.”

Ms. Fischer, 67, said she was particularly concerned with how laws in some states have gone beyond outlawing abortion and target providers with penalties, including criminal charges in states such as Florida.

“I think there’s so much more at stake now than there was before,” Ms. Fischer said.

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