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Fetterman and Oz will meet for a high-stakes debate on Tuesday night


Democrat John Fetterman and Republican Mehmet Oz will meet Tuesday night in their only debate, with the stakes exceptionally high for both major parties in an hour-long showdown that is expected to feature deep rifts between U.S. Senate rivals in Pennsylvania and put Fetterman’s health and recovery from a May. shot in the spotlight.

The latter has become a focal point – and a source of friction – for both campaigns in the final weeks of a race seen as key to determining which party will control the Senate next year. That was a factor in Tuesday’s debate format, where Fetterman will use a closed-captioning system to account for what he and his doctor said were symptoms of auditory processing disorder.

Tuesday’s debate will be another test for Fetterman, who has returned to a busier campaign schedule after spending much of the summer recovering from the track. The lieutenant governor spoke at rallies and did media interviews, appearing in more controlled settings. He has not been to a live event with his opponent, where on Tuesday he faces the prospect of hostilities and tough questions.

Fetterman, the lieutenant governor of Pennsylvania, has sought to demonstrate his fitness for office, explaining that while he sometimes stumbles over his words, he is up to the task of being a U.S. senator — a position his doctors pointed out in two letters made public. since his stroke. He tried to make his recovery a lesson in empathy for people with serious health issues.

According to ABC27, the local TV station hosting the debate, the real-time captions will transcribe everything the moderators and Oz say, but they won’t transcribe Fetterman’s words. ABC27 reporter Dennis Owens, who will be one of the moderators, aired a segment that showed two large television screens suspended above the moderators. The screens will display the text of what is being said in real time. Oz and Fetterman will be standing on a stage during the debate behind the lecterns.

Candidates will have 60 seconds to answer questions, 30 seconds for rebuttals and 15 seconds for any clarifications, according to a person familiar with the rules of debate who spoke on condition of anonymity to share the details. Candidates are allowed to have an 8 x 10 notebook, a black ballpoint pen and water with them. If a candidate is attacked, the moderator will decide whether to give him the opportunity to respond.

Fetterman’s health has been a point of contention in the campaign. He initially did not release full information about his medical history to the public when his campaign revealed he had a stroke days before the Democratic primary. Oz criticized him for not being more transparent and questioned his ability to serve in Congress.

In a memo released Monday, the Fetterman campaign sought to downplay his debate skills. “John didn’t get where he is by winning debates or being a polished speaker. He got here because he truly connects with Pennsylvanians,” senior campaign officials Rebecca Katz and Brendan wrote. McPhillips.

The Oz campaign has sought to frame the debate as an arena for voicing disagreement over policy positions. “John Fetterman is finally going to have to answer for his radical policies,” said Brittany Yanick, communications director for the Oz campaign. The Oz campaign hammered Fetterman as soft on crime, pointing to his time advocating for the parole of prisoners as head of the Board of Pardons, among other things.

An Oz campaign billboard greets people entering the town of Braddock, where Fetterman lives, with a comparison of Fetterman with toilet paper and a puppy because they too are limp.

Larry Ceisler, a Democratic public affairs official in Philadelphia who has groomed candidates for debates, said “Fetterman’s biggest challenge and greatest opportunity will be his opening statement and what he says from the first word, because he must prepare the ground for what people are. will see and people will hear.

Ceisler added, “He’s going to have to create an environment for the viewer around empathy. Do not listen to how I say it, but the essence of what I say.

The debate comes amid polls showing an increasingly tight race, with Fetterman leading but with a smaller margin than he had over the summer, facing a steady stream of attacks from Oz and its allies. Democrats see Pennsylvania as their best chance to flip a seat; it is now held by Sen. Patrick J. Toomey (R), who is retiring.

The two candidates not only have different political platforms, but very contrasting personalities that the debate could accentuate. Fetterman is a 6-foot-8, tattooed, goatee-like man who rarely wears a suit and tie. Oz, a cardiothoracic surgeon who hosted “The Dr. Oz Show” for years, almost always looks ready for TV, with bobbed hair and suits that seem tailor-made.

Both candidates spent much of the campaign attacking each other personally. Fetterman used viral social media memes and videos to ridicule Oz as a wealthy, out-of-touch celebrity who made a living promoting questionable medical supplements on his TV show.

Most of Fetterman’s campaign speeches are Oz punchlines, though he does mention some political commitments, ranging from trying to codify federal abortion protections to raising the minimum wage to abolishing abortion. systematic obstruction.

Right after Fetterman’s stroke in May, the Oz campaign kept a low profile, but once the Democrat started campaigning again, Republicans unleashed a torrent of attacks accusing Fetterman of failing to do so. say enough about his condition and to have received financial support from his parents. adulthood.

Chris Borick, a political science professor who leads the polls at Muhlenberg College, said people will be watching Fetterman’s overall performance, but they’ll also want to know how he responds to some of Oz’s attacks on Fetterman over crime. .

“I want to see how [Fetterman is] going to elaborate on his messages on this topic and how he can formulate a response that might help him somewhat stem the tide that has moved against him in the race,” Borick said.

Oz, Borick said, will need a convincing answer to questions about his ties to Pennsylvania after being a longtime resident of New Jersey – a point Fetterman hammered at as why Oz shouldn’t. represent the state.

Fetterman’s campaign flew a banner, “Hey Dr. Oz, Welcome Home to NJ” over the Jersey Shore – a popular summer destination for people who live in and around Philadelphia. At the bridge across New Jersey in Pennsylvania, the Fetterman campaign put up a billboard with a similar message.


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