A day after Pennsylvania’s Senate debate sharpened the stakes in the battle for control of the chamber, Democrat John Fetterman strolled onto a stage in Pittsburgh and bluntly acknowledged his challenges.
“To be honest, doing that debate wasn’t exactly easy,” Fetterman told supporters at a rally Wednesday night. “I knew it wasn’t going to be easy having a stroke after five months. In fact, I don’t think that’s ever been done before in American political history.”
It was the first public reaction from the nominee to a debate performance that drew intense scrutiny and even raised concern among his supporters about his ability to win in a race that represents Democrats best opportunity to flip a GOP-held seat in the evenly divided Senate.
To cheers from the crowd, Fetterman announced that his campaign had raised more than $2 million following the debate, which campaign aides say they intend to invest into TV ads highlighting the comments his rival, Republican Mehmet Oz, made on abortion.
“He believes the local political leaders should be the one making that choice, not a woman and her doctor,” Fetterman said, adding, “Basically Doug Mastriano.”
It was the latest effort by Fetterman and his campaign to link Oz to Mastriano, the Republican gubernatorial nominee. Fetterman’s campaign had released an ad making that argument earlier Wednesday, telling voters, “Oz would let politicians like Doug Mastriano ban abortion without exceptions – even in cases of rape, incest, or life of the mother. Oz is too extreme for Pennsylvania.”
Oz had said in Tuesday’s debate that “local politicians” should contribute to women’s medical decisions.
With a strong voice, Fetterman spoke to a crowd that gathered to hear him and to see the Dave Matthews Band, which is making its way across the country to boost enthusiasm for Democratic candidates ahead of November’s midterms.
Fetterman was introduced by his wife, Gisele Barreto Fetterman, who pointedly described him as “a stroke survivor” – but also as “way handsome” and “badass.”
The Democrat began his remarks with a joke comparing the last two nights: Tuesday having been spent with Oz, while “tonight I get to be with Dave Matthews. Trust me it’s a pretty good choice,” he said.
Fetterman acknowledged his challenging debate performance as he recovers from his stroke, saying, “I may not get every word the right way, but I will always do the right thing in Washington, DC.”
Following his remarks, Dave Matthews played an acoustic set and praised the Democratic candidate.
“He’s a working man and he works for working people. I hope you get it right. Come on everybody. We’ve got to get it right,” Matthews said before playing.
A light rain fell over the crowd as Fetterman signs waved in the air before the political rally morphed into a free concert.