Pennsylvania Senate race: Mehmet Oz hopes to preserve GOP seat in battle against John Fetterman

The Keystone State presents Democrats’ best chances to flip a Senate seat

Eric Garcia
Tuesday 08 November 2022 23:09 GMT
John Fetterman uses screen to transcribe questions during interview after stroke

Pennsylvania’s Senate race has been perhaps the most bizarre one in a crowd of absurd campaigns. What should have been a relatively sleepy race where Republicans attempt to hold a Senate seat has instead turned into an intensely personal race with two outsized personalities.

Senator Pat Toomey, an arch-conservative on fiscal issues, announced his retirement in 2020 after he never really found a way to work within the confines of a GOP led by Donald Trump. In 2021, Mr Toomey voted to convict Mr Trump for his actions during the January 6 riot.

Pennsylvania’s Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman spent much of the aftermath of the 2020 presidential election pushing back on Mr Trump’s lies on national television. As a result, he chose to parlay that fame into running for Mr Toomey’s open seat against state legislator Malcolm Kenyatta and Conor Lamb, whom he did away with handily in the primary in May, but not before suffering a stroke.

Conversely, Mr Trump endorsed Sean Parnell, a veteran and former congressional candidate. But his estranged wife alleged in their custody dispute that he had abused both her and two of their three children. The dispute led to him ending his campaign and former television host and physician Mehmet Oz announcing his run.

Dr Oz faced off in a crowded primary against right-wing candidate Kathy Barnette and former hedge fund executive Dave McCormick, with some worried that the celebrity doctor was not sufficiently conservative.

Those fears didn’t subside when Mr Trump endorsed Dr Oz right before the May primary and he narrowly won the nomination. As a result, for much of the general election, Dr Oz had high unfavourability among Republicans.

But a Suffolk University/USA Today Network poll earlier this month showed that Republicans have coalesced around Dr Oz. Republicans have hit Mr Fetterman for being soft on crime, particularly noting how he worked to commute the sentences of two men convicted of second degree murder under spurious conditions who now work for his campaign.

Similarly, the Oz campaign has accused Mr Fetterman of using his stroke to avoid a debate, putting out a press release saying it would pay for any medical personnel during the debate. That led Mr Fetterman to initially pulling out of the debate with Dr Oz but the two are now set to debate on 25 October in Harrisburg.

Meanwhile, Mr Fetterman’s campaign has sought to make Dr Oz seem like an outsider, focusing mainly on the fact he is from New Jersey, relentlessly hammering the fact home by ordering a Cameo video of Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi of The Jersey Shore. They also pointed to Dr Oz shopping for crudité at a Wegmans and calling it a “Wengers.”

With a 50-50 Senate, Republicans need to flip just one Senate seat to win back the majority. But a Fetterman victory would mean they would need to gain one more seat to prevent another deadlocked Senate.

For his part, Mr Fetterman has run on the slogan that he would be the “51st vote,” highlighting how Democrats have to appease West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin to pass any legislation.

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