Pennsylvania Lt. Governor and Democratic Senate candidate John Fetterman debated against Republican Dr. Mehmet Oz on Tuesday evening two weeks before residents of the Keystone State cast their ballots.
The two nominees exchanged barbs on a variety of topics, from abortion and crime to fracking and inflation, as the Democrat painted his opponent as a liar and the Republican argued that his rival is radically progressive. Fetterman, who suffered a stroke days before the primary elections that placed him in the hospital and removed him from the campaign trail for months, faltered and provided choppy responses as Oz, a veteran television host, aggressively pressed his opponent and occasionally exceeded his time limits.
Oz, repeatedly raising examples of conversations he has shared with Pennsylvanians over the past several months, blasted Fetterman, who did not commit during the debate to releasing his medical records, on his absence from the campaign. In turn, Fetterman criticized Oz for his longtime residence in New Jersey. Even with a closed captioning system positioned behind the moderators designed to aid his auditory processing, Fetterman struggled to remain coherent.
Discussion on the state of the economy quickly turned to energy. Oz pointed to fracking and natural gas production as mechanisms for expanding living standards in Pennsylvania, while Fetterman insisted that he has “always supported” fracking when confronted with his past statements opposing the practice.
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Fetterman said that he “absolutely” supports increasing the minimum wage in Pennsylvania from $7.25 to $15.00. Oz argued that the minimum wage ought to be “as high as it can go” through market forces, which have already caused average wages to increase well above $7.25, while a federal wage floor would place unnecessary strain on small businesses.
On the issue of abortion, Fetterman contended that “abortion is health care” and vowed to “codify” the Supreme Court’s ruling in Roe v. Wade, which was overturned earlier this year. When moderators pressed Oz to harmonize his support of rape and incest exemptions with his pro-life position, the candidate said that he would leave all abortion policy to the states.
“As a physician, I’ve been in the room when there’s some difficult conversations happening,” Oz remarked. “I don’t want the federal government involved with that at all.”
Both candidates were asked if they would respectively support Joe Biden and Donald Trump as their parties’ candidates should they run in the 2024 presidential election and secure the nominations. Fetterman said that Biden, a “good family man,” would have to make his own decision on whether or not to run for a second term. Oz, when asked for clarification, affirmed that he would support Trump or any other Republican who successfully emerges as the nominee in two years.
When questioned about the greatest foreign policy threat to the United States, Fetterman pointed to China and accused Oz of manufacturing his merchandise in the communist nation. Oz, meanwhile, criticized renewed negotiations on the Iran nuclear deal, which he claimed was a move to secure more energy supply, as an affront to American allies. He added that “the best way for America to establish its dominance” in opposition to Russia would be to “unleash the energy here in Pennsylvania and across the country.”
Fetterman closed by referencing his own medical battles as a motivation for his service in the federal government, asserting that he would represent all struggling Pennsylvanians. “I’ve made my entire career dedicating to those kinds of pursuits,” he remarked in his closing statement.
Oz made a final appeal for unity while encouraging viewers to consider the present trajectory of the nation. “None of this has to happen,” Oz closed in reference to Democratic policies. “This is all very addressable.”