Was Last Night’s Debate The Beginning Of The End For Fetterman?
Many debates took place across the country this week, but there was none with higher stakes than the one in Pennsylvania Tuesday between Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman (D) and Dr. Mehmet Oz (R). Few political debates live up to the hype. The build-up to these confrontations is often immense, and both candidates usually score some blows, but the polls rarely move much after any one debate usually move minimally if at all.
That will not likely be the case in this race after Oz scored a resounding victory in the debate against Fetterman on Tuesday night. The snap post-debate polls asking who the winner was were lopsided in an almost unprecedented fashion…
Oz was down double digits to Fetterman as recently as mid-September, but the Doctor has risen steadily and significantly in the polls over the last month by focusing almost exclusively on crime. Fetterman’s double-digit lead was never likely to hold in a state that is very evenly divided between Republicans and Democrats, but Oz’s rise to being tied with Fetterman before Tuesday’s debate was still impressive. Oz had just 77% support of Republicans 2 months ago, and he now appears to have both consolidated support within his own party, and also successfully reached out to independents.
Money has been pouring into the Pennsylvania Senate race over the last 6 weeks, and Oz’s campaign has focused their ads almost exclusively on Fetterman’s radical record and far-left policy ideas, such as the fact that the Lieutenant Governor wants to legalize most hard drugs, including heroin. Oz’s attack ads have worked for several reasons. First, Fetterman doesn’t take questions from the media or do regular interviews, so his campaign was late to respond. Second, violent crime continues to spiral out of control in Pennsylvania, with Philadelphia sadly being the city with the highest per capita crime rate in the country.
Fetterman’s unwillingness to debate on a regular schedule, release his medical records, or even do monthly interviews, made his campaign’s efforts to respond to Oz and Republican group’s effective ad ineffective. Fetterman also only committed to 1 debate, and he only made this commitment after the Pittsburgh Gazette called out his fitness to serve he wasn’t able to willing to do a single debate. Eventually, Fetterman agreed to debate Oz, but he insisted on only 1 debate, and that’s why the stakes were so high going into the confrontation between candidates last night.
Fetterman failed at the debate on every front. He had difficulty with his speech, he struggled to hear the questions, and his attempted attacks on Oz fell flat. Oz on the other hand came across as polished and well-informed. The Doctor has never been a politician before, but he’s been used to being on TV for a while, and unlike Fetterman, Oz has been interacting with the media and voters on a regular basis for months. Oz also had a contentious primary against well-financed Republican Dave McCormick, and that clearly helped get him ready for this race. Oz focused on crime, he was succinct, and the Doctor also came across as very well-prepared.
The toughest question Oz faced was on abortion, when he was asked about whether or not he would support Lindsay Graham’s bill banning abortion at 15 weeks. Oz’s response, despite what the media reaction might have been surrounding his wording, was excellent. He said he thought the States should decide the issue, and implied he would vote against the bill despite being pro-life.
His answer generated a mountain of left-wing screeching, which was clearly intended to deflect from Fetterman’s poor performance…
…would nevertheless be pleasing to people on both sides of one of the most contentious issues of our time. Republican and conservative voters, even of the pro-life variety, will like the fact he talked about states’ rights, while Democrats and independents are going to like the fact that Oz made clear he would not support a national ban on abortion.
Oz was ready, he wasn’t nervous, and also got in all the points he wanted to make, including on crime. Oz talked about Fetterman’s support for legalizing hard drugs, including heroin, and he also brought up Fetterman’s comments which showed support for how Pennsylvania could release a third of all of the criminals in jail.
And Fetterman was, to put it mildly, a mess…
Oz is an outsider who has never been in politics, and without Trump’s endorsement he would have had no chance against McCormick in the Republican primary. But Oz has effectively gained the support of the Trump base in addition to positioning himself as the more moderate candidate in this race. Fetterman needed to change the trajectory of the race at the debate, and he needed to change the narrative. The lieutenant governor failed on all fronts. His speech issues confirmed many voters’ fears about his health, his inability to defend his far-left positions on issues ranging from crime to energy likely alienated many independents, and his weak showing also likely failed to energize key Democratic constituencies for his campaign.
Things got so bad after the debate that Fetterman’s campaign proceeded to bawl out Nexstar, the media company whose stations carried the debate, for the closed-captioning system that he depended on to process the questions since he’s unable to understand verbal communication as a result of his stroke.
Last night was the beginning of the end. Fetterman got away with not showing up to debate his opponents in the Democratic primary, but he had to do a debate with Oz after even left-wing media sources like NBC called out his lack of transparency about his health. Fetterman only agreed to one debate, and that raised the stakes for this confrontation. In the end, Oz exceed expectations and Fetterman utterly failed to meet even the lowest of bars. Unless a major event occurs now and the election, which is just weeks away, Fetterman is likely finished.