How captioning will work at the Pennsylvania Senate debate

Pennsylvania 2022 midterm election

(NewsNation) — The Pennsylvania Senate debate between Democratic Lt. Governor John Fetterman and Republican challenger Dr. Mehmet Oz is sure to cover topics like abortion and inflation, but it will also feature one noteworthy addition: closed captioning.

Fetterman, who is still recovering from a stroke he suffered back in May, requested the accommodation which the Oz campaign agreed to.

NewsNation will air the primetime debate exclusively with pre-debate analysis provided by Leland Vittert during a special edition of his show “On Balance” from 7-8 p.m. ET, followed by the full debate from 8-9 p.m ET. Here’s how to watch.

Everything Oz and the moderators say will be typed out on a large screen. The live transcription will be done by captioners who have been hired for the debate.

You can see exactly what the setup looks like here.

The conversation on Tuesday night will be the first and only time the two candidates — who are vying for the seat currently held by Republican Sen. Pat Toomey — face off on stage.

In an NBC interview earlier this month, Fetterman said captioning helps him interpret and respond to questions more precisely.

Dr. Clifford Chen, Fetterman’s primary care physician, evaluated the Democratic candidate last week and said he is “recovering well” and has “continued to improve,” but still shows symptoms of “an auditory processing disorder.”

In a one-page medical report summarizing the visit, Chen said Fetterman “spoke intelligently without cognitive deficits.”

Chen noted that Fetterman’s communication has significantly improved since his first visit and concluded that he “has no work restrictions and can work full duty in public office.”

So far, Fetterman has declined to release more in-depth medical records.

Oz, a retired surgeon and TV personality, has campaigned on the issue and said his opponent hasn’t been honest about his health.

Pennsylvania voters NewsNation spoke to said they are taking Fetterman’s condition into account, but want to see for themselves how he handles the debate.

“It is definitely something voters are thinking about because it’s being brought up quite a bit,” said Bob Davis, a voter. “The debate will give us a first-eye view of how he is doing.”

Davis remains undecided, but said he’s leaning toward Fetterman.

Another voter, Chad Fischer, said he wants honesty and transparency above all else: “I think he (Fetterman) should get whatever health issues he has out there.”

At least two other U.S. Senators have suffered strokes this year: Sens. Ben Ray Lujan (D-New Mexico) and Chris Van Hollen (D-Maryland). Both have since resumed their duties, although the severity of their strokes varied.

Fetterman has maintained a consistent lead over Oz for months but that gap has narrowed significantly in recent weeks.

As of today, Fetterman has a 53% chance of winning compared to Oz at 47%, according to Decision Desk HQ’s election model. Less than two weeks ago, the same model gave Fetterman a 70% chance of winning.

A recent Franklin & Marshall College Poll suggests Pennsylvanians believe Fetterman better understands their concerns and back him on social issues but think Oz is stronger on the economy, which is the top issue voters care about.

A Fetterman victory would almost guarantee Democrats retain control of the Senate, while an Oz win could tilt the balance of power in the Republican’s favor.

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