The race to fill the seat vacated by the retiring Republican Senator Pat Toomey continues to be one of the most-watched "toss-ups" that could determine which party will be the majority in the senior chamber come January. Most polls over the summer have shown Democrat John Fetterman with a solid lead over television personality Dr. Mehmet Oz, who is running under the GOP banner.
Fetterman recently returned to the campaign stump after recovering from a stroke on May 17 – just two days before his state's primaries. But several times during remarks in Pittsburgh last week (and in Erie on August 12), the lieutenant governor paused awkwardly – and in Pittsburgh, he refused to take questions after his five-minute speech.
AFN spoke with Diane Gramley, president of the American Family Association of Pennsylvania, about Fetterman's more recent speech.
"He was not coherent; he was not able to string together coherent sentences," she describes. "He just did not have the ability to keep his train of thought going – and it was not a good picture at all for those who may be considering voting for him because they have to be asking about his health, whether he's really up to the job of being a United States senator."
Recently polls have been tightening in his race against the GOP's Oz, who has been urging the Democrat to debate.
"I've seen the primary debates and he's not a good debater," Gramley shares. "Even before his stroke he was not a good debater. So, I would think he would be very hesitant to do any kind of debating after the stroke, especially with the way he's been on the campaign trail."
A spokesperson for Fetterman's campaign insists the candidate is up for debating Oz – but added "we're not going to do this on Oz's terms and timeline." The Oz campaign, in response, says if Fetterman is too sick to debate or concerned about being able to stand before cameras for more than ten minutes, "then he should just say so."
As CNN points out, the Democrat's campaign has been "tight-lipped" on details about his recovery; and that Fetterman has been "cautious" about speaking one-on-one with reporters since his stroke.