Oz and Fetterman: Pennsylvania Senate Race Tight Despite Differences

By Beth Brelje
Beth Brelje
Beth Brelje
Beth Brelje is an investigative journalist covering Pennsylvania politics, courts, and the commonwealth’s most interesting and sometimes hidden news. Send her your story ideas: Beth.brelje@epochtimes.us
July 16, 2022 Updated: July 18, 2022

Pennsylvania’s U.S. Senate race is one of the most watched races in the country.

The open seat, being vacated by Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), is pivotal to the Senate’s balance of power. It hasn’t been held by an elected Democrat since 1969, although longtime Republican Sen. Arlen Specter switched to the Democratic Party in 2009 while in office. Specter served from 1981 until 2011, when Toomey was elected.

The Senate currently has 50 Republicans, 48 Democrats, and two independents who caucus with the Democrats.

Now, with no incumbent advantage in Pennsylvania, Democrats see potential to flip the seat. Their candidate, John Fetterman has consistently had a slight lead in the polls, after a comfortable victory in the primary.

Republicans hope to regain power in the Senate by holding on to Pennsylvania with candidate Mehmet Oz and flipping seats in other states. Oz had a tough primary, and Republicans who supported other candidates are still working up their enthusiasm for him.

Candidates Differ Greatly

The candidates are vastly different, according to political analyst Terry Madonna, senior fellow in residence for political affairs at Millersville University in Pennsylvania.

“Different personalities. Different styles the whole way. I mean, it’s rare to find those kinds of huge differences,” Madonna told The Epoch Times.

Yet, the polling is close.

“I’ve not seen a single poll that shows a double-digit lead for either,” he said.

John Fetterman
John Fetterman fills out his emergency absentee ballot for the Pennsylvania primary election in Penn Medicine Lancaster General Hospital in Lancaster, Pa., on May 17, 2022. (Bobby Maggio via AP)

Oz is a heart surgeon and television personality. Fetterman is the former mayor of Braddock, Pennsylvania, and the state’s current lieutenant governor, who has worked alongside Gov. Tom Wolf for the past four years.

Oz wears suits and has a tidy haircut; Fetterman shaves his head and wears baggy shorts and hooded sweatshirts.

But they have a few things in common. Both of them went to Harvard. Each has a level of political charisma. Neither has put discussion of serious voter issues at the forefront of their campaigns.

Fetterman has avoided talking about issues, using memorable stunts to illustrate that Oz isn’t a longtime resident of Pennsylvania, but moved to the state soon before campaigning. Fetterman sent an advertising airplane over the New Jersey shore, pulling a banner that said “Hey Dr. Oz. Welcome home to NJ! [with a picture of a heart] John,” and he posted a video on Twitter of “Jersey Shore” reality television personality Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi asking Oz why he would leave New Jersey to look for a new job.

Oz has posted Twitter memes highlighting high gas prices and the well-known “I did that” gas pump sticker with President Joe Biden pointing at the price, adding a similar sticker of his opponent, labeled the “Fetterman Fee.”

He also posted a video welcoming Fetterman back to the campaign trail after Fetterman suffered a stroke just before the May primary and has been subsequently laying low since.

In the video, wearing workout clothes, Oz finishes tying his shoes and starts jogging.

“I’ve been praying for him. I’m glad he’s OK,” Oz said in the video.

Now that he’s back, Fetterman can’t keep hiding forever, he said.

“Joe Biden hid in his basement. How did that work out for us?”

Oz says he wants to debate Fetterman on the energy industry and crime.

“I’m glad Fetterman’s healthy, so we can worry less about his heart and hoodie and more about the crazy leftist ideas in his head,” he said.

Shifting Parties

More voters are moving away from the Democratic Party. As of July 11, Pennsylvania’s Department of State voter registrations show that 10,972 voters have switched their party from Republican to Democrat, while 35,600 voters have switched from Democrat to Republican.

“That’s because the Democratic Party has become the party of the left. These Democrats—working-class voters in the old mining and milling areas of Pennsylvania, became Democrats during Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal,” Madonna said. “Over the past decade, the Democrats became a much more progressive party, and there are profound differences.”

He cited cultural issues. Many working-class voters are pro-life, and they aren’t wild about gay marriage and LGBTQ issues, he said.

The left’s approach to energy is another reason people are leaving the Democratic Party. In old coal mining and steel towns, there’s now the natural gas industry.

“Progressive Democrats want to stop natural gas production,” Madonna said.

“And let’s talk about guns. Progressives are for gun control. Some literally want confiscation. These people are strong supporters of the Second Amendment. So on the fabric of the issues, working-class voters in the southwestern part of our state in particular, and in some areas up in the Northeast in the old anthracite coal region are dramatically different from the progressive Democrats.”

These voters are switching to the Republican Party, he said.

But Republicans are switching to the Democratic Party in the suburbs and cities, especially college-educated suburban women, according to Madonna.

“The Republican base is now much more rural and small-town Pennsylvania,” he said.

As voter demographics change, where candidates go to campaign will matter.

“Fetterman has done something that Democrats have not done in recent years,” Madonna said. “He has gone out and campaigned among ordinary Pennsylvanians, particularly the working-class voters. Hillary [Clinton] couldn’t find them.”

He also said Oz has been visiting a lot of small towns as well. It’s in these interactions that voters will pick up more precise information about the candidates.

Typically, there’s a lull in campaigning over the summer, Madonna said. In mid-August, things will start to intensify.

“I don’t think there’s any doubt that it’s going to be one of the—and maybe the—most covered Senate elections in the country.”

Beth Brelje
Beth Brelje is an investigative journalist covering Pennsylvania politics, courts, and the commonwealth’s most interesting and sometimes hidden news. Send her your story ideas: Beth.brelje@epochtimes.us