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Axios: Fetterman's Debate Meltdown Only Raised More Questions About His Health

AP Photo/Ryan Collerd

Did John Fetterman’s campaign know this would be a trainwreck, or did they feel that the Pennsylvania Democrat could handle himself with the closed captioning system during the first and only debate with Republican Dr. Mehmet Oz? The two men are vying to fill the vacancy left by outgoing Republican Sen. Pat Toomey, and while Fetterman enjoyed a double-digit lead over the summer, Oz has virtually erased that advantage, hitting the lieutenant governor on his Tempur-Pedic-like record on public safety. It’s resonated, possibly putting the Philly suburbs in play, an event as rare as the Phillies winning the World Series.


The hour-long event was a brutal reminder to Pennsylvania voters that Fetterman, who is recovering from a severe stroke, cannot execute the duties of a U.S. Senator. He couldn’t string sentences together, couldn’t pivot when pressed on his record on fracking, and failed miserably in countering the narrative that he isn’t healthy. That doctor’s note giving him the green light was written by one of his donors, and the stumbling, bumbling, and dead-air silence did little to give credibility to that letter.

As Katie wrote earlier today, the predictions for the race shifted massively. Spencer mocked the media for doing damage control, while Guy declared Fetterman a disqualified candidate due to this performance. He also wondered if the Keystone Democrat would have fared just as poorly with voters if he had backed out because it could get any worse.

Now, as the Democrats blame closed captioning for Fetterman short-circuiting on stage, Democrats are worried they hoisted themselves on their own petard while also placing a massive spotlight on Fetterman’s health. So far, Mr. Fetterman has refused to release his health records (via Axios):


The post-debate commentary on NewsNation focused primarily on Fetterman's health and capacity to serve.

NewsNation host Leland Vittert said "the biggest issue was John Fetterman's health and his ability to comprehend speech, and to then speak coherently on the issues of the day."

Another Pennsylvania Democratic official worried: "Everyone is nervous. I've traveled everywhere. Fetterman is a deep concern. And this debate will only increase it."


A senior Democratic official in Pennsylvania told Axios: “I wished Fetterman was in a better place to clap back. Overall, I argue it wasn’t great for us but still a draw. Remember in these next few weeks that Oz’s campaign is spending tens of millions of dollars against a man with a major medical condition.”

The bottom line: A CBS News/YouGov poll conducted before the debate found that 46% of respondents believed it's important for candidates to address Fetterman's health.

It's hard to see how Fetterman's debate performance alleviated the concerns of the skeptics.

Sorry, Democrats, starting off a debate by saying “hello, goodnight, everybody” is not a transcription error.


Release your health records, sir.


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