Democrat John Fetterman’s post-stroke auditory processing challenges were on full display Tuesday in his first and only Senate debate against Republican Mehmet Oz.

Reading moderators’ questions on large screens with closed captioning, Mr. Fetterman quickly sought to address what he called the “elephant in the room.”

“I had a stroke, he never let me forget,” Mr. Fetterman said, pointing to Mr. Oz. “Maybe I’ll forget some words during this discussion, string a few bars together, but it’s knocked me out and I’ll keep coming back.”

“This campaign for me is about fighting for everyone in Pennsylvania who has ever been down who needs to get back up,” he said.

As Mr. Fetterman predicted, he often stumbled over words and sometimes stopped short of completing sentences.

Mr. Oz, meanwhile, said he intended to bring civility back to Washington, and said the race was about Mr. Fetterman’s radical vision.

“John Fetterman takes everything to extremes, and those extreme positions hurt us all,” he said.

The 60 Minutes showdown in Harrisonburg, Pennsylvania, was one of the most anticipated debates of the 2022 midterm election cycle, pitting the bald, tattooed, 6-foot-8-inch Mr. Fetterman against the popular Trump-backed TV vet. was erected. .

It was a stark contrast in style and policy vision between the two men who met for the first time on Tuesday.

The race between Mr. Fetterman, 53, and Mr. Oz, 62, to replace retiring Republican Senator Pete Toomey, is considered the best bet for Democrats to flip a seat in the US Senate.

Mr. Fetterman had wind at his back by midsummer when the Senate Leadership Fund, a super PAC affiliated with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky, attacked Mr. Fetterman for being soft on crime. Advertisers started broadcasting.

Mr Oz took up this line of attack early in the debate, telling viewers he had recently been with the widow of a police officer killed in the line of duty.

Mr. Oz said, “During this crime spree John Fetterman is trying to get as many murderers – convicted and sentenced to life in prison – as possible out of prison – including those who Similar to the man who killed her husband,” Mr. Oz said.

The race is now billed as a toss-up, with the polls pitting Mr. Fetterman and Mr. Oz against each other.

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