As he sought to rally his fellow Democrats in the Midwest, Sen. John Fetterman on Saturday brought his Pennsylvania brashness to the state that bills itself as “Iowa nice” and roasted the 2024 Republican presidential field.
“Were you devastated, devastated when Mike Pence dropped out?” Fetterman said at the annual Iowa Democrats’ Liberty and Justice Celebration.
“Can we all join for a moment of silence for that?” he added, bowing his head in mock solemness.
He ribbed at Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, saying the GOP candidate has “managed to make laughing awkward” before doing an impression of DeSantis’ wide laugh.
Despite joking that he was only in Iowa to try the breakfast pizza, Fetterman – in his first major out-of-state speech since winning his competitive Senate race last fall –brought his brash style to the Hawkeye State to rally Iowa Democrats around Joe Biden’s bid for a second term. It comes months after the Pennsylvania Democrat was hospitalized for depression in a challenging start to his Senate career.
“We have to come together to elect Joe Biden,” he told the crowd of Democratic elected and party officials who are the minority in the GOP-led state.
He argued that Democrats who want to “criticize and go after Joe Biden, our president – just go ahead and write a check” to former President Donald Trump.
Fetterman was sworn into the chamber in January still dealing with lingering auditory processing issues following his stroke last year in the middle of a tough campaign. In February, after struggling with substantial weight loss and a loss of appetite, he entered inpatient treatment for depression.
On Saturday as the Iowa dinner’s keynote speaker, Pennsylvania’s junior senator made light of a darker theory about his fitness for office.
“I’m John Fetterman, maybe, maybe,” he said, before mentioning a “fringe” conspiracy theory that he has a body double.
“Normally, that stuff’s crazy…But this is actually true. And I am the body double here tonight,” he said to laughter. “Do you have any idea how hard it was to find somebody that’s six foot eight, that looked like this, and had a stroke?”
Since his return to work in April, the first-term senator has been seemingly more himself again and his unusual persona has been shaking up the Senate.
“It’s just the water here,” he told CNN in September when asked about the change back to his Senate schedule.
Fetterman was the first of his colleagues in September to call for Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez to resign, and now is leading the push for Menendez’s expulsion, after the New Jersey Democrat was indicted on alleged bribery charges and over allegedly acting as a foreign agent on Egypt’s behalf.
Shortly after the allegations against Menendez were publicized, Fetterman told CNN he was “surprised” he was the first person to come out against Menendez, saying the case against him was “so stark.”
“That arrogance where now he’s saying, ‘I’m not going anywhere,’ it’s like – my dude, you are going somewhere, and it’s going to be an election or it’s going to be a conviction,” Fetterman told CNN’s Manu Raju. “Do the honorable exit, and stop being a massive kind of distraction here for the Senate and for the nation.”
On Thursday, he introduced a resolution, seemingly targeted at Menendez, that would strip senators charged with certain crimes from their committees and block them from having access to classified information.