Maybe absence does make the heart grow fonder. Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, the Democratic nominee in a closely watched
Maybe absence does make the heart grow fonder.
Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, the Democratic nominee in a closely watched US Senate race, has had to stay off his feet since suffering a stroke nearly two months ago — but an initial poll has shown him running well ahead of his Republican opponent, celebrity heart surgeon Dr. Mehmet Oz.
Fetterman, 52, suffered the stroke two days before the May 17 primary. Shortly before the polls closed, his campaign announced that he would undergo surgery to install a pacemaker with a defibrillator to “help protect his heart and address the underlying cause of his stroke, atrial fibrillation (A-fib), by regulating his heart rate and rhythm.”
Fetterman was released from the hospital on May 22 and said in a statement he would take time to “rest and recover.” After a period of inactivity, Fetterman’s cardiologist released a letter June 3 stating that the defibrillator had actually been installed to treat cardiomyopathy, which had been diagnosed in 2017 — and never made public before.
More shockingly, the doctor said that after the cardiomyopathy diagnosis, “John did not go to any doctor for 5 years and did not continue taking his medications.”
The belated disclosure of Fetterman’s health issue raised questions about whether he was up to the rigors of an all-out campaign that could determine the balance of power in the Senate.
“There were so many red flags,” a Democratic consultant told the Washington Post after the revelation, adding: “If Oz and the Republicans wanted to sort of get to the [health] issue in a roundabout way, they would do it through the trust issue.”
As Fetterman continues his recovery, he has largely campaigned by mocking Oz on Twitter. As of Thursday, his pinned tweet was a “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous” parody detailing Oz’s multiple homes. In another post, Fetterman accused Oz of filming a campaign video from his home in neighboring New Jersey.
The unconventional tactics seem to be working. A USA Today/Suffolk University poll from mid-June showed Fetterman leading Oz by 9 percentage points.
What’s more, despite a national environment that should favor Oz, including low approval numbers for President Biden and levels of inflation not seen since 1981, some GOP officials are worried about what they call a lackadaisical campaign from the Trump-endorsed Republican following a hard-fought primary.
“I don’t have much confidence in their campaign,” Arnie McClure, chair of the Huntingdon County Republican Party, told Politico Thursday.
“[Oz] came in a distant third in my county [in the primary], so I called them up and said, ‘You need to talk to our people to change their mind and our mind and I’ll help you do that.’ And I don’t even hear back. What the hell?” McClure said.
The National Republican Senate Committee tried to ride to Oz’s rescue this week, releasing a mock missing person poster on Twitter asking whether voters had recently spotted the 6-foot-9 Fetterman.
The ad runs down a list of the lieutenant governor’s characteristics (“Eyes: Blue,” “Hair: Bald”) before adding “Last Seen: 5/13/22” and issuing a final warning: “Caution: Extremely Socialist.”
“Since we haven’t seen John on the PA campaign trail in quite some time, the NRSC has released a Missing Person Poster in hopes he can be found so he can find some time to hear from Pennsylvanians about their struggles thanks to the Fetterman-Biden agenda,” the organization said.
Fetterman’s camp told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Wednesday that he is “feeling really well,” was “about 90% back to full strength” and expects to be back “on the campaign trail soon.”
But the new question facing the Democrat may be, why change what appears to be a winning strategy?