In a cycle when many candidates are refusing to debate their opponent, the Democrat. John Fetterman Pennsylvania took the stage Tuesday night for the first and only debate in the U.S. Senate race.

Fetterman, Pennsylvania’s lieutenant governor, did so despite struggling to regain his communication skills after a near-f*tal str*ke in May. He has spoken openly about his difficulty in finding his words and accurately interpreting spoken dialogue.

I A memo to journalists On Monday, Fetterman’s team kept expectations low ahead of the debate, noting that. Fetterman’s “Ongoing auditory processing challenges are real.”

That conflict was evident in Tuesday night’s debate as his Republican opponent, Mehmet Oz, demonstrated his versatility on TV, the medium that made him known across America as “The Doctor”. Oz.”

From the beginning, Oz, who did not live in Pennsylvania until he decided to run for the Senate, set the tone, portraying himself as a moderate who could restore “balance” to Washington. Is.

Asked by the moderators of Harrisburg ABC affiliate WHTM if he would support Donald Trump if he were to run for president again, Oz quickly responded that he would celebrate the bipartisanship. I will support the Republican candidate before I join.

“I’ve reached across the aisle during my campaign because I want to bring balance to Washington,” he said. “And I’ve tried to work with Democrats and Republicans and people in between, people who aren’t sure … people who are angry about where their party is going.”

He sold himself as an agent of change to President Joe Biden, unified Democratic control of Congress and any voters dissatisfied with the state of the economy.

“Are you unhappy with where America is headed?” They said. “I am, and if you are too, I am a candidate for change.”

Fetterman has been open about his auditory processing issues since returning to the campaign trail in August after three months recovering from a stroke. Fetterman’s therapist has said he is “fit” to run and rule, but he still slurs words when speaking, and his brain may have trouble understanding spoken words, especially In a noisy environment.

At Fetterman’s behest, he and Oz were able to use closed captioning monitors above the debate moderators to make sure he understood each question. It’s a practice they’ve already adopted for sit-ins with journalists.

Fetterman was at his best reciting lines that he had clearly rehearsed.

“I’m running to serve Pennsylvania. He’s running to use Pennsylvania.”

– John Fetterman, Democratic candidate for Senate

“I am running to serve Pennsylvania,” he declared in his opening statement. “He’s running to use Pennsylvania.”

He initially called it the “Oz Rule”: that if Oz is speaking on television, he is lying.

Fetterman deployed the line to deny accusations that he wants to embrace “socialized medicine” and that he does not support fracking, a controversial method of extracting natural gas.

In fact, Fetterman has supported “Medicare for All,” which would require all Americans to enroll in a health insurance plan administered by the federal government.

But he has distanced himself from the post during his Senate run. His campaign website says he will. support “Any legislation that moves us closer to the goal of universal health care coverage.”

When Oz tried to hit back at him for endorsing Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) for president in 2016, Fetterman also had a sly response.

“Why don’t you pretend you live in Vermont instead of Pennsylvania and run against Bernie Sanders?” Fetterman said. “Because all you can talk about is Bernie Sanders.”

But in other critical moments of the debate, Fetterman struggled to keep up with Oz.

Pressed to explain why he initially criticized fracking before embracing it, Fetterman offered no explanation.

“I support fracking,” he said. “And I don’t, I don’t, I support fracking and I stand and I support fracking.”

Oz himself has been on the record expressing his opposition to fracking. In a ___ 2014 columnhe argued for a ban on fracking until its health effects are better studied.

But Republicans boast close ties to the oil and gas industry, perhaps making Oz’s denial that he ever had a change of heart seem more understandable. “I’ve been very consistent” in support of fracking, he said.

“If we can get the energy out from under our feet here in Pennsylvania, there will be enough money to go around.”

– Dr. Mehmet Oz, Republican Senate nominee

Oz even responded to a question about whether he supports raising Pennsylvania’s minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $15 an hour based on the wonders of Pennsylvania’s natural gas.

Claiming that the labor market had already reached wages above $15 an hour, Oz declared, “If we can get the energy out from under our feet here in Pennsylvania, there’s going to be plenty of money to go around. “

Indeed, some of Oz’s power Tuesday night was due to the ease with which he deflected questions about the issues.

Asked if he would have voted for bipartisan gun control legislation sponsored by retiring Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), Oz declined to answer.

“I would have tried to improve this bill. There are things that I think most of us appreciate,” he said. “I wasn’t there at the time, so I can’t speak to what was possible.”

But in other respects, for the first time he had the opportunity to articulate his ideas to a statewide audience.

He announced that he would oppose any cuts to Social Security and Medicare, despite a plan to do so by Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), and House Republican Leader Despite Kevin McCarthy’s pledge to use the debt ceiling to push. A deep cut in costs That would not spare two universal social programs.

Oz also said he would oppose any federal restrictions on ab*rtion rights, including GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham’s bill to ban the procedure after 15 weeks.

“I have been very clear as a physician about my desire not to interfere with states’ ab*rtion laws,” Oz said.

For her part, Fetterman tried to bring the conversation back to how she and Oz responded to the Supreme Court’s June decision to end the constitutional right to ab*rtion.

“I support Roe v. Wade. It was the law of the land for 50 years,” Fetterman said. “He celebrated when it fell, and I will fight to reinstate Roe v. Wade.”

“If you believe that Dr. Oz has a choice about your reproductive freedom, then you have a choice,” she added. “But if you believe that the choice to have an ab*rtion is yours and your doctor’s, then that’s what I fight for.”

Oz also inadvertently gave Fetterman ammunition to att*ck when stating his support for statewide ab*rtion policy.

“I want women, doctors, local political leaders, to let democracy always flourish, to push the best ideas so that the states can decide for themselves,” Oz said.

Democrats almost immediately seized on her words to show that Oz sees a role for “local political leaders” in making decisions about a woman’s right to choose.

Fetterman announced plans Wednesday to launch a TV campaign ad that will include a segment on “political leaders.”

“Our campaign is putting money behind making sure more women hear Dr. Oz’s radical belief that ‘local political leaders’ should have as much say in a woman’s ab*rtion decisions as the women themselves. and their doctors,” Joe Calvello, a campaign spokesman, said in a statement.

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