Pennsylvania Democrat John Fetterman To End Absence From Campaign Trail Two Months After Stroke
Michelle Gustafson/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Pennsylvania Lt. Governor and Democratic Senate nominee John Fetterman is planning a return to the campaign trail on Thursday after suffering a stroke two months ago.

Fetterman was hospitalized on May 13 — days before the primary election — and received a pacemaker-defibrillator. Though he was cleared by his cardiologist, Ramesh Chandra, to campaign for the commonwealth’s open Senate seat, Fetterman has made no significant public appearances since his hospitalization, according to the Pennsylvania Capital-Star. On Thursday night, Fetterman is expected to appear at a fundraiser with the Democratic Jewish Outreach in Philadelphia.

“John is feeling really well and doing well,” Fetterman Communications Director Joe Calvello told the Capital-Star. “He is ready to flip this seat blue. And he is putting in the work to do so.”

Beyond virtual interviews and video calls with volunteers, Fetterman has relied upon various online trolling efforts targeted at Republican rival and celebrity cardiologist Dr. Mehmet Oz — including a cameo from Snooki, a personality from the reality show Jersey Shore, aimed at Oz’s longtime residence in New Jersey.

Fetterman gave his first media interview since May to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on Wednesday — emphasizing that although he may “miss a word” or “slur two together” from time to time, he’s “feeling really good” and has “nothing to hide.”

“I would never be in this if we were not absolutely, 100% able to run fully and to win — and we believe that we are,” Fetterman said.

Chandra said in a letter released to the public last month that Fetterman had not visited his office since 2017 despite his atrial fibrillation — a condition that causes an irregular heart rhythm and decreased heart pump. “I had prescribed medications along with improved diet and exercise and asked him to follow up again in the following months,” Chandra wrote. “Instead, I did not see him again until yesterday.”

Because his pacemaker-defibrillator is working, Chandra said Fetterman would “be fine” as long as he takes medication, eats healthy, and stays active.

Yet Democratic operatives had been nervous about the lack of transparency from Fetterman’s campaign. One elected Pennsylvania Democrat told NBC News last month that there had been “no indication” of a timeline for Fetterman’s return to the campaign trail. “A lot of us Democratic Party types are very nervous about it.”

A Pennsylvania Democratic strategist told NBC that he and others were unsure how to take Fetterman’s absence. “It’s not like Fetterman has close institutional allies, so Dems are calling around wanting to ask the question, but no clue where to get a sense of how serious it is.”

Fetterman has thus far led Oz in the polls. According to a USA Today Network and Suffolk University poll released last month, the lieutenant governor maintained 46% of the vote against his rival’s 37%. A more recent AARP poll shows Oz with 44% and Fetterman with 50%.

For the past eight years, Pennsylvania has been led by Governor Tom Wolf, a Democrat, as well as a Republican legislature. The outcome of the fall midterm elections could determine the direction of the commonwealth — particularly with respect to abortion policy due to the overturning of Roe v. Wade — and allow Democrats to flip a Senate seat.

Both candidates are accordingly filling their war chests. Oz has raised more than $19 million between March 17, 2021, and June 30, 2022, according to filings with the U.S. Federal Elections Commission. Though Fetterman has not yet reported his second-quarter fundraising to the agency, he has raised $11 million between April and June, his campaign told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

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