The latest twists and turns are now shaking up tight Senate races that will decide the fate of a Democratic-led chamber – as well as America’s future direction – 12 days from Election Day.
Democrats’ best chance to capture the Republican-held Senate seat may have been further complicated by John Fetterman’s shaky debate Tuesday night in Pennsylvania, raising more questions about the stroke survivor’s ability to serve.
That same question, albeit from different circumstances, is swirling around Georgia Republican Senate candidate Herschel Walker, who an unnamed woman claimed at a news conference Wednesday that she pressured him to have an abortion in 1993. The college football icon called the accusation “a lie.” ”, but after facing similar accusations from an ex-girlfriend, he has opened himself up to further accusations of hypocrisy, having previously called for a national ban on abortion without exceptions.
Meanwhile, in Arizona, where the Republican Party’s march to the anti-democratic fringes is gaining momentum, Senate candidate Blake Masters appeared on camera to vow to former President Donald Trump that he would not go “soft” on false voter fraud claims. Also, Masters told supporters on Tuesday that they were fine with using ballot boxes to prevent “vote-gathering” amid talk of “gangs” allegedly conspiring to intimidate voters.
The volatile state of the three races – each of which could be crucial in determining control of the Senate – underscores the high stakes going into the election. It outlines an intensifying and increasingly vicious partisan battle rocking debate stages across the country. And as Democrats desperately seek to halt Republican momentum on the campaign trail, they’re banking on voter frustration over runaway inflation and high gas prices emerging from the pandemic.
President Joe Biden’s approval rating has dropped to levels that could prove disastrous for Democratic candidates. GOP attack ads are also creating a dystopian vision of a nation haunted by violent crime, and while Democrats are bashing Republicans for their anti-abortion stance, the Supreme Court’s Roe v. After Wade was revoked in June.
If Republicans win the Senate – in a year where they are the favorite to take back the House – they will be able to reduce the White House with investigations and a Biden presidency. Additionally, they could stall White House efforts to balance the Republicans’ success in reshaping the judiciary along very conservative lines.
Pennsylvania, which is critical to Democrats’ hopes of a 50-50 majority in the House, could be the most important Senate race in the country. Republicans only need a net gain of one seat to win a majority, so winning the Keystone State could help Democrats mitigate losses in other defensive states.
Even after suffering a stroke in May, Fetterman was boosted for much of the summer by famed surgeon Mehmet Oz. But the race has tightened in recent days. The Democrats’ struggle to articulate their positions and launch attacks against their rival in Tuesday night’s debate echoed concerns in Washington.
Fetterman noted that he is still dealing with the auditory and language effects of his stroke, but his struggle to find the right words on the debate stage was sometimes painful to watch. Several times, he seemed to lose his train of thought and repeated sentences. “To be honest, it wasn’t very easy to have that discussion,” Fetterman told supporters during Wednesday night’s appearance.
The question now is whether undecided voters will ask if he’s well enough to run for the Senate, even though his doctors say he’s getting better all the time. Party lines may be so entrenched at this point that his performance won’t matter. Still, more than 600,000 Pennsylvanians have already cast ballots in the race and Fetterman’s debate showdown, a job interview, comes at a time when voters are still making up their minds, more than a week from Election Day. If he loses, his campaign will ask questions about whether he was wrong to debate Oz.
Former Pennsylvania Republican Rep. Charlie Dent said Fetterman’s campaign set the bar very low, but not low enough for a debate that is “disturbing on many levels.”
“It was really a terrible thing to see. “On a human level, I feel for John Fetterman,” Dent told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on “The Situation Room” Wednesday.
Still, Fetterman can earn points for the courage to not let his health get in the way of his political fight for Pennsylvanians. At his campaign events, he asks supporters if they or their loved ones have experienced a health crisis, and promises to go to Washington to secure the health care he says has saved his life.
In interviews with voters, CNN’s Jeff Zeleny picked up on anxiety among Fetterman supporters about how his stumbles could hurt his chances, even if they didn’t back down from him personally.
But one Fetterman supporter, Craig Bischof, of the central town of Bedford, said his candidate is “healthier every day” and has come “a long way.”
Jan Welsch, however, a Republican in town, said the Democrat’s performance was “disgraceful” and that Pennsylvania would be in big trouble if it voted for him.
But such comments also raise the question of how much Fetterman’s continued recovery would affect his work in the Senate, a chamber known to have its fair share of elderly and ailing lawmakers. Moreover, it is not as if a single senator has the power of a president, for example, who must make and explain critical national security decisions. Then there’s also the question of whether Fetterman is unfairly treating her for what is essentially a disability at this stage in a discriminatory manner that would not be tolerated in another workplace.
But Fetterman needs to change the subject. Oz gave him some material to work on Tuesday night, and the Fetterman campaign quickly released an attack ad based on the Republican’s comment that “local political leaders” should have a say, along with women and doctors, on whether someone should have an abortion. The gaffe played directly into Democrats’ efforts to argue that Oz and his fellow Republicans were too extreme for the district’s crucial voters.
While Pennsylvanians were digesting the controversy, Georgia voters – thousands of whom have flocked to the polls to cast their ballots early – were learning about a new scandal involving Walker, who is trying to unseat Trump’s handpicked Democratic Sen. Raphael. Warnock.
An unnamed woman who said she had a years-long romantic relationship with Walker said the Senate candidate pressured her to have an abortion in 1993. The woman, called Jane Doe to protect her identity, was almost accompanied by her lawyer, Gloria, at the press conference. Allred, and read his statement. His voice was heard, but his face was not shown.
“He has publicly taken a position that he is pro-life and against abortion under any circumstances, when he actually pressured me to have an abortion and personally took me to the clinic and made sure it happened at his expense,” Doe said in the complaint. The walker of hypocrisy.
Allred on Wednesday presented evidence corroborating Doe and Walker’s alleged relationship, but did not provide details substantiating the abortion claim.
The GOP candidate accused Democrats of orchestrating the attack.
“I have already told people that this is a lie, and I will not be entertained, continue to carry the lie. And I also want to let you know that I didn’t kill JFK either,” Walker said at a campaign event before the press conference. “I’m done with this stupidity,” he added in a statement Wednesday evening.
An ex-girlfriend has already accused Walker of pushing her to have an abortion and then paying the cost. He denounced this claim as “purely false”. But when the first woman was presented with a copy of the check she said was payment for her procedure, she accepted her signature on the paper, although she said she didn’t know what the check was for. CNN has not independently confirmed the first lady’s allegations. He has remained anonymous in public reports.
The political impact of the latest announcement was unclear. It could hurt Walker, who is running prominently behind popular Republican Gov. Brian Kemp, who is running for re-election in a rematch against Democrat Stacey Abrams. But national Republicans keep coming to rally around Walker, with Texas Sen. Ted Cruz joining him on Thursday.
The abortion issue is unlikely to help Walker in key districts and could dampen support among religious conservatives. But polls in the wake of the initial allegations against him showed little change in his position in the race, behind Warnock. And Walker’s political mentor, Trump, showed in his negotiations with social conservatives that a scandal-ridden private life need not be politically disqualifying. The former president returned their faith in him by building a conservative majority in the Supreme Court. Politics may have reached such a point of polarization in the US that in some elections it may be the ideology rather than the personality of the candidate.
Trump’s influence is playing out in Arizona, where Masters is locked in a tight race with Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly.
In a phone call captured in a Fox documentary, the former president is shown reprimanding Masters after he said during a debate that he saw no evidence of election fraud in Arizona.
“If you want to cross the line, you have to be stronger in one thing. That was the only thing, a lot of complaints,” Trump told Masters, using Arizona Republican gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake as an example.
“Look Kari. Kari is earning with little money. And if they say: ‘How is your family?’ He says the election was rigged and stolen. You will lose if you go soft. You’re going to lose that base,” Trump said.
Masters was telling Trump, “I’m not soft.”
Arizona has become a hotbed of electoral denial in the wake of Trump’s 2020 loss in the state, which is reflected in the up-and-down polling of the list of Trump-endorsed candidates. The rise of conspiracy theories has led to fears of restrictive new voting laws and voter intimidation efforts across the country.
The Arizona chapter of the League of Women Voters, for example, filed a lawsuit late Tuesday in federal court targeting groups and individuals it says are conspiring to intimidate voters through a coordinated effort known as “Operation Drop Box.”
This is the second lawsuit filed in federal court regarding the behavior of people – some of whom are armed – who are disrespecting and filming voters at the polls in Arizona.
Masters told KTAR News on Tuesday that it was OK for people to see the ballot boxes, but they had to follow the law.
“If you’re going to watch the ballot boxes, stay there no matter the distance, don’t scare the voters, get your video camera out and record it to make sure people don’t collect ballots,” Masters said.