Three months after Pennsylvania Democratic Senate candidate John Fetterman was sidelined by a stroke, he plans to return to the campaign trail with a rally next Friday.
Mr. Fetterman, Pennsylvania’s lieutenant governor, announced Friday that he will hold the meeting in Erie, Pennsylvania, his team said. He faces Dr. Mehmet Oz, the famous physician and Republican candidate, in one of the country’s most important Senate battles.
Pennsylvania may be offering Democrats their best shot at securing a seat in the U.S. Senate, and Mr. Fetterman’s general election debut, on the eve of the intense fall campaign season, will be closely watched. Weeks after the stroke in May, he remained largely out of the public eye, releasing short video clips as he recovered. In June, his campaign acknowledged that he also had a heart condition called cardiomyopathy. Mr Fetterman said he “nearly passed away” and vowed to focus on his recovery.
He begins to rise slowly, greeting volunteers in July and attending some personal fundraisers, while Dr. Oz criticized him for his absence from the path.
Some who have listened to Mr Fetterman at fundraising events in recent weeks have said he seems energetic, but at times it was clear that he was grasping at a word – something Mr Fetterman has acknowledged.
“Maybe every now and then I miss a word in a conversation, or I can smurf two words,” Mr. Fetterman told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette last month. “Even then, I think that’s rare.” He added: “I feel like we’re ready to run.”
While Mr. Fetterman himself has had a light personal campaign schedule, he and his team have maintained a relentless pace on social media and followed a range of creative tactics to help Dr. Oz is more at home in New Jersey – what was his old primary residence – than in Pennsylvania, where he says he now lives, in a suburb of Philadelphia.
Mr. Fetterman’s campaign tapped Nicole Polizzi, of “Jersey Shore” fame – better known as Snooki – to shoot a video for Dr. Oz stating that “Jersey will not forget you”.
And Stevie Van Zandt, a renowned musician and actor who has achieved legend status in his home state, took a direct-to-camera message to dr. Oz urging him to ‘come back to Jersey, where you belong. And we’ll have some fun, huh?”
For his part, Dr. Oz, a heart surgeon, unveiled a site that criticizes Mr. Fetterman as a “basement bum” for his absence from the campaign trail. He also has tried to link mr. Fetterman to President Biden, who struggled with anemic approval ratings, and to Senator Bernie Sanders, who supported Mr. Fetterman in the 2016 presidential primaries.
Public opinion polls show that Mr. Fetterman has a significant lead over Dr. oz. But Pennsylvania may be the ultimate swing state, and the race could tighten considerably before Election Day. On Friday, Mr. Fetterman notes that there have been more than a million individual contributions since he announced his candidacy last year.
“Whoever wins Erie County will win Pennsylvania,” Mr. Fetterman said in a statement announcing his plans for a rally. “Erie County is Pennsylvania’s premier county.”