Fetterman and Oz storm Pennsylvania as race tightens up

Pennsylvania 2022 midterm election

PHILADELPHIA (NewsNation) — Pennsylvania Senate candidates Lt. Gov. John Fetterman and Dr. Mehmet Oz are criss-crossing the commonwealth as polls show they’re neck-and-neck in a heated race.

It has been a contentious matchup between the two candidates as they both vie to snag the seat of retiring Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.). Recent polling shows Fetterman with a slight lead in a tight race.  

The closely watched Pennsylvania race will be a whirlwind for both candidates as they hit the home stretch with Election Day one week away. This comes as the race’s winner could determine the balance of power in the U.S. Senate, which is why both parties have spent millions in TV ads courting voters.

Fetterman started the weekend making an appearance at the same reception in Philadelphia where both President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris made a joint appearance on the campaign trail on Friday. From there, Fetterman made multiple campaign stops across the city.

Fetterman needs the Black vote in Philadelphia if he has any chance at winning. Black voters are at the center of an increasingly competitive battle in the race that could tilt control of the Senate, as Democrats try to harness outrage over the Supreme Court’s abortion decision and Republicans tap the national playbook to focus on crime in cities.

Philadelphia is also home to the largest base of Democratic voters in the commonwealth, but it means nothing if there’s poor turnout next week.  

Fetterman acknowledged his debate with Dr. Oz last week wasn’t easy as he continues his recovery from a stroke he suffered in May.

“I had a stroke, as I know, as you all know, but Dr. Oz never let me forget that. What kind of a doctor wants someone that was sick to remain sick,” Fetterman said. “But there’s another truth: I’ll be much better in January, but he’ll still be a fraud.”

Oz spent part of his weekend near Philadelphia in Bucks and Montgomery Counties where the Republican base is stronger. The Oz campaign knows it needs to do well among suburban voters, due to Oz having a hard time making a strong connection with Black voters in Philadelphia.

For Oz, crimes is a primary thrust. He has held two public safety-themed town halls in Black communities, suggesting that Democrats have failed to protect them from violence and drugs.

“My opponent John Fetterman has argued that we should decriminalize all drugs and create heroin injection sites. I went to a heroin injection site in Philadelphia; did an event there to point out that no one wants it in their back yard because it brings crime, and giving people the ability to take heroin long term is not a survival strategy,” Oz said.

Republicans frequently point to gun violence in Philadelphia and have sought to undercut one of Fetterman’s avenues of appeal to Black voters: his efforts as lieutenant governor to free the over-incarcerated, rehabilitated or innocent. Republicans cast it as freeing dangerous criminals to roam the streets.

Fetterman and Democrats call that a lie and fearmongering that underestimates support among Black voters for giving second chances. And they say Black voters know they can trust Fetterman to support the things they care about, like voting rights legislation in Congress.

Both candidates say they experienced a surge in support after last week’s debate. Fetterman’s camp says it raised more than million dollars in contributions.

Meanwhile, the Philadelphia Inquirer newspaper took a lot of criticism after a group of the paper’s columnists and contributors said Fetterman won last week’s debate. The group members said Fetterman may have struggled at times with his speech, but he was more direct in answering questions while they say Oz seemed more like a slick salesman — Republicans say that’s ridiculous.

The Associated Press and The Hill contributed to this report.

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