Republicans and Democrats find sympathy for John Fetterman after his post-stroke debate efficiency: ‘Certainly not gonna slam a man who’s had a health problem’

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John Fetterman
Democratic Lt. Gov. John Fetterman participates in Pennsylvania Senate debate on October 25, 2022.

  • Democrats in Pennsylvania have continued to defend John Fetterman after his debate efficiency.
  • Republicans expressed sympathy for Fetterman however questioned his means to serve after a stroke
  • “Is this somebody who’s gonna be cognitive enough to really represent the needs of Pennsylvanians?” one GOP official mentioned.

As Lori McFarland watched Democratic Lt. Gov. John Fetterman make his case to voters in Pennsylvania’s Senate debate on Tuesday night, one factor grew to become clear to her: time was not on his facet.

A retired particular schooling public faculty instructor, McFarland thought that the closed captioning displayed on a giant monitor above the debate moderators helped Fetterman with auditory-processing issues that he is confronted since he suffered a severe stroke 5 months in the past.

“But he needed way more time to be able to process effectively,” McFarland, the chair of Lehigh County’s Democratic Committee, informed Insider on Wednesday. “He really had a hard time navigating 15 seconds, 30 seconds, and 60 seconds,” and finally, that is “what really set him off in him underperforming.”

During the one-hour showdown towards his Republican rival Mehmet Oz, Fetterman at occasions struggled to get his message throughout clearly, talking haltingly and stumbling on his phrases. The efficiency starkly contrasted with that of Oz’s, a movie star physician who made his identify on daytime TV and appeared extra snug on stage.

Still, McFarland mentioned she stays steadfast in her help for Fetterman, unfazed by issues circulating about his health and his means to signify the Keystone State. 

“People who are supporting John Fetterman – certainly this didn’t change anything,” McFarland mentioned. “They have a real understanding and empathy for John’s experience and what he’s going through.”

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“And I must tell you,” she added, “Oz looked like such a smirky schmuck. He looked arrogant, he looked bold, he looked like a bully.”

In practically a dozen interviews with voters and elected officers in Pennsylvania on Wednesday, Democrats shared the identical sentiment after watching the debate, unwavering of their dedication to Fetterman. Yet Republicans, whereas expressing sympathy towards the Democratic candidate’s health, questioned his readiness for public responsibility, and urged fellow Pennsylvanians to do the identical.

“God bless the man. Certainly not gonna slam a man who’s had a health challenge. We all go through different health challenges at different times in our lives,” mentioned Glenn Geissinger, chair of Northampton County’s Republican Committee, “But the question that I think that the voters have to ask themselves is: is this somebody who’s gonna be cognitive enough to really represent the needs of Pennsylvanians?”

Fetterman has for months fended off criticism about his health, insisting that he is match for the job. Following a three-month hiatus, he returned to the marketing campaign path in August, holding in-person occasions and taking part in one-on-one interviews. 

“He’s been doing his due diligence to try to show the commonwealth and our residents that he is out there, he is doing his best, and that he’s gonna take some time to heal,” Fadia Halma, a Democratic volunteer within the Lehigh Valley space, informed Insider, including that Fetterman displayed “genuine courage” by taking part within the debate.

At the identical time, the Oz marketing campaign has accused Fetterman of being opaque about his health. Last week, Fetterman launched a new note from his physician that acknowledged in his newest checkup, he “spoke intelligently without cognitive deficits,” is “recovering well,” and demonstrated that he “can work full duty in public office.”

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Fetterman cited that letter when requested by the debate moderator about releasing a detailed medical report “in the interest of transparency.” 

“To me, transparency is about showing up. I’m here today to have a debate. I have speeches in front of 3,000 people in Montgomery County, all across Pennsylvania – big crowds,” Fetterman mentioned, “I believe if my doctor believes that I’m fit to serve, then that’s what I believe is appropriate.” 

James Carter, a 71-year-old Democratic voter, informed Insider that Fetterman is just not getting sufficient credit score.

“You don’t hear anybody talking about how well he’s doing, or the amazement of what he’s doing when he had a serious stroke,” mentioned Carter, a legislative district chief in Dauphin County. “You hear people talk about limitations.”

Fetterman acknowledged these limitations in his opening remarks of the debate, calling his health “the elephant in the room” and admitting that he may miss or mush phrases over the hour, all whereas touting his resiliency. 

“It knocked me down, but I’m gonna keep coming back up,” Fetterman mentioned.

Though for many Republicans, Fetterman’s efficiency was painful to observe. “I kind of felt bad,” Stacy Garrity, Pennsylvania’s state treasurer, informed Insider. 

“I felt a little sorry for Fetterman,” Republican state Sen. Mike Regan, informed Insider, “But I mean, look, this is a tough business, right? You gotta be sharp, you gotta be on your toes.”

The election to exchange retiring Republican Sen. Pat Toomey is among the most vital within the nation as the end result may decide which celebration controls the Senate, and basically, President Joe Biden’s agenda. Democrats are vying to develop their majority whereas Republicans are aiming to flip the higher chamber purple.

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In latest days, polls have proven a tightening race between the 2 rivals, with Oz narrowing Fetterman’s lead. It’s unclear whether or not Fetterman’s debate efficiency may jeopardize his standing within the race. 

Some Republicans hope Tuesday’s debate, the primary and just one earlier than Election Day, would push Oz forward within the polls. 

“I don’t even think that John Fetterman should be running,” Beth Gdowik, a 59-year-old voter from the Lehigh Valley space, informed Insider.

“I understand that a stroke can impact somebody’s ability to communicate,” Gdowik added, however, “He couldn’t even put together a full sentence. I’m not convinced that cognitively he is able to do the job.”

But to McFarland, the debate will not transfer the needle towards Fetterman, as a result of “cognitively, he’s not impaired” and as a result of lots of of hundreds of Democrats in Pennsylvania have already solid their ballots for him. Early voting amongst Democrats makes up round 73% of the present vote within the state, surpassing the speed amongst Republicans, at 23%, in keeping with an analysis by Target Smart, a Democratic-leaning political knowledge agency. 

“We don’t need him to be a super orator,” McFarland mentioned of Fetterman. “We don’t need perfect candidates. We need people who are supportive, empathetic, understand Pennsylvanians, and I think he does. And I don’t think that Oz does.”

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