The characters were different in each state, but each debate featured candidates clashing over the economy and inflation, as well as access to abortion rights and American energy. Here are the big takeaways from Tuesday’s proceedings:
Fetterman’s health at center of sole debate
Fetterman, who suffered a stroke in May, used live captioning as accommodation during Tuesday’s debate. The debate intro displayed the captioning system to viewers, noting that it was visible to both candidates.
“I could miss a few words during this debate, jumble two words together,” Fetterman said at the top of the debate, and he sometimes did during debates.
Later in the debate, moderators pressed Fetterman to commit to releasing his “full medical records,” following his campaign which recently published a letter from his doctor saying he was recovering and fit to To stand for elections. The Democrat declined to commit, instead saying, “My doctor thinks I’m fit to serve.”
The Oz campaign suggested that Fetterman was not healthy enough to be a senator. He largely didn’t mention his opponent’s condition onstage, but he appeared to prank Fetterman at one point, saying he “wasn’t clear enough for you understand that” in a conversation about the cost of higher education. .
During the debate, moderators pushed Oz on abortion, telling him it should be left to the states. “I don’t want the feds involved in any of this,” Oz said. “I want women, doctors, local political leaders – leaving the democracy that has always allowed our nation to thrive to come up with the best ideas so states can decide for themselves.”
Moderators also asked Fetterman if he supports fracking, citing comments from a 2018 interview against fracking and more recent comments saying he supports it. “I support fracking,” Fetterman said, pausing, when pushed on. “I don’t – I support fracking.”
Oz also pledged to support former President Donald Trump should he run for the White House again in 2024, and he said he was not particularly following the former president’s legal perils. In turn, Fetterman said he would support President Joe Biden if he ran for re-election.
If Fetterman retains Oz, it would be a major boon to the Democrats’ hopes of retaining their majority in the Senate. A win in Pennsylvania would topple a Republican seat, giving them more wiggle room as several Democratic incumbents try to fight tough re-election battles.
The fight against abortion opens the debate on the governor of Michigan
Tuesday’s debate in Michigan opened on the state’s abortion ballot measure, which would codify the right to abortion in the state constitution. The ballot measure has drawn considerable attention in the state, while a court battle over a 1931 state law banning abortion is ongoing. This law is currently blocked in state courts.
“The governor is absolutely important to this,” Whitmer said, criticizing Dixon for his support for a near-total ban on abortion. “The right to reproductive choice is important to women of all ages, from all walks of life.”
Dixon attacked the ballot measure – and Whitmer – as extreme, saying “when Governor Whitmer tells you it’s going to be deerit’s not even close to deer. … It would be the most sweeping abortion law in the entire country.
Much of the second half of the debate focused on the economy – including inflation, energy costs and various taxes – and education. Whitmer and Dixon clashed over how to protect schools from gun violence, with Dixon saying she would like to have armed security and an entry point for schools while calling for a ‘safe schools office’ in the ‘State.
But Whitmer pushed back, saying stronger gun control measures were needed and saying Dixon’s proposals had failed elsewhere.
“There was a shooting at a school in Missouri yesterday in a neighborhood that had exactly what she just described,” she said. “And people died.”
Hochul defends the politics of crime and guns – and the rule of the New York Democrats
Almost the first fifteen minutes of the debate in New York between Democratic Governor Kathy Hochul and Republican Rep. Lee Zeldin focused on crime — exactly the topic Zeldin hammered Hochul on for months.
“I’m running to take back our streets,” Zeldin said, repeatedly criticizing Hochul for reforming bail laws.
Hochul has tried to stick to his record of toughening gun laws. “It’s not about ruling by sound bytes. I rule with sound politics,” Hochul said. Those who commit crimes in New York still face consequences, Hochul added, after being pushed repeatedly by Zeldin.
Polls last week showed Zeldin closing in on the incumbent governor as he focused his campaign on a message that Hochul has failed to tackle violent crime in New York.
Hochul — who has spent much of the campaign painting Zeldin as an anti-abortion, pro-MAGA hardliner — has recently attempted to pivot to address some of New Yorkers’ crime concerns.
Zeldin, for his part, said Tuesday he would accept the results of the gubernatorial election if he loses, but he also defended his vote in Congress against certification of the 2020 election.
New York has been reliably a Democrat for two decades, last electing a Republican governor in 2002.
A Low-key Colorado Debate
Unlike the rest of Tuesday’s debate lineup, the Colorado Senate debate between Democratic Sen. Michael Bennett and Republican Joe O’Dea lacked any major fireworks, with both candidates trying to portray themselves as supporters. of moderation.
“We have to come together. Put aside the labels, the partisanship, the political titles and solve the problems,” O’Dea, a businessman, said in his opening statement. Meanwhile, O’Dea called Bennet a “rubber stamp” for President Joe Biden.
Bennet pushed back on the characterization, later speaking of his bipartisan good faith. “I haven’t contributed to the toxic atmosphere that has existed since I’ve been in the Senate,” he said, referring to a rafting trip he took with Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah).
Both candidates expressed support for the authorization of reform pushed by Sen. Joe Manchin (DW. Va.) earlier this year. But they repeatedly piled on energy, with Bennett dryly saying that at one point O’Dea was “so passionate about” fossil fuels.
Despite the measured pace of exchanges between the two men, the stakes in Colorado’s race are as high as for any Senate seat.
O’Dea is trailing in the polls, but campaign groups have poured millions into both camps in recent weeks as Republicans hope he can cause an upheaval.
The debate unfolded in an unusual political context: Trump came out this week against O’Dea after the Republican said he would “openly campaign” against the former president. Trump also called Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’ endorsement of the nominee a “big mistake.”
Bennet and O’Dea don’t get much reprieve: They are due to meet for another debate on Friday.