A day after Pennsylvania’s Senate debate raised the stakes in the battle for control of the chamber, Democrat John Fetterman walked onto a stage in Pittsburgh and openly accepted his challengers.
“To be honest, it wasn’t very easy to have that discussion,” Fetterman told supporters during Wednesday night’s appearance. “I knew it wouldn’t be easy to have a stroke after five months. In fact, I don’t think this has ever been done in American political history.”
It was the candidate’s first public reaction to a debate show that drew intense scrutiny and raised concerns among his supporters about his ability to win a race where Democrats represent the best chance to flip the GOP’s divided Senate seat.
To cheer the crowd, Fetterman announced that his campaign had raised more than $2 million after the debate, and campaign aides have said they plan to invest in television ads highlighting his opponent, Republican Mehmet Oz’s comments on abortion.
“He thinks local political leaders should be the ones making the choice, not the woman and her doctor,” Fetterman said, adding that it was “basically Doug Mastriano.”
It was a last-ditch effort by Fetterman and his campaign to connect with Republican gubernatorial candidate Oz Mastriano. Fetterman’s campaign released an ad making that argument earlier Wednesday, telling voters, “Oz would let politicians like Doug Mastriano ban abortion without exception, even in cases of rape, incest or the life of the mother. Oz is too extreme for Pennsylvania.”
Oz said during Tuesday’s debate that “local politicians” should be involved in women’s medical decisions.
In a powerful voice, Fetterman spoke to the crowd gathered to hear him and see the Dave Matthews Band as he stoked the excitement of Democratic candidates across the country ahead of the November caucuses.
Fetterman was introduced by his wife, Gisele Barreto Fetterman, who described him as a “stroke survivor” but also “very handsome” and “cheeky.”
The Democrat began his remarks with a joke comparing the last two nights: Tuesday spent with Oz, “tonight I’m going to be with Dave Matthews. Believe me it’s a pretty good choice,” he said.
Fetterman acknowledged his difficult debate performance as he recovers from his stroke, saying, “I may not get every word right, but I will always do the right thing in Washington, DC.”
After his remarks, Dave Matthews performed an acoustic set and praised the Democratic candidate.
“He is a worker and works for the workers. I hope it turns out well. Come on everybody. We have to get it right,” said Matthews before the game.
A light rain fell on the crowd as Fetterman’s signs waved in the air before the political rally turned into a free concert.