Pennsylvania Senate candidates Fetterman and Oz debate

Pennsylvania Democratic Lt. Governor John Fetterman and Republican Dr. Mehmet Oz square off in their first and only Tuesday night debate in highly guarded condition and controversial Senate race.

The race is considered a toss-up with just two weeks until Election Day – and the results could determine which party controls the Senate, which is currently split evenly 50-50. Fetterman and Oz vie for the seat vacated by incumbent Republican Senator Pat Toomey.

Polls have tightened in recent months. The CBS News Battleground Tracker Poll released Tuesday before the debate revealed that Fetterman was leading Oz by just 2 points, 51% to 49%, down from his 5-point lead in mid-September.

John Fetterman and Mehmet Oz deadlocked ahead of first and only Pennsylvania Senate debate


Fetterman’s health has been a focus since he suffered a stroke days before winning the Democratic primary in May. He returned to the election campaign in August, but continues to struggle with auditory processing issues, which he describes as sometimes missing a word or “mixing” words together. There will be a constant reminder of this on stage, as he will rely on subtitles during the debate, as he did for interviews since his stroke.

Fetterman’s campaign tried to lower expectations, noting that captions would be typed by humans in real time on live television.

“A certain amount of human error in transcription is unavoidable, which can sometimes cause temporary miscommunications,” campaign adviser Rebecca Katz and campaign manager Brendan McPhillips wrote in a memo obtained by CBS News. They said they were “prepared for allies of Oz and right-wing media to release malicious viral videos after the debate.”

Fetterman’s health has been a political target for Dr. Oz, who has criticized Fetterman for not debating earlier and accused him of hiding his condition or using his health to hide policies from voters.

Only 46% of voters registered in the CBS News poll said before the debate that it was important for candidates to talk about Fetterman. health. Fifty-five percent said Fetterman was healthy enough to serve. Among likely voters, the top topics they want to hear about are the economy, inflation, crime, guns and abortion.

Midterm voting is well underway in Pennsylvania. More than 635,000 voters have already voted by mail. Of those, 73% were chosen by Democrats, a figure that reflects their tendency to vote early, compared to Republicans, who vote in greater numbers on Election Day.

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