When the campaign for Pennsylvania’s open U.S. Senate seat kicked off in earnest in May, the casual observer could be forgiven for thinking the Democratic nominee (Fetterman) was an experienced professional politician who would work hard at the job and stick to the issues, while the Republican candidate (Oz) was a dilettante multimillionaire who had parachuted into a state he barely knew, speaking on issues that were outside his expertise.
What a difference a few months makes.
Since his narrow primary victory over David McCormick and Kathy Barnette, Mehmet Oz has worked hard to reunite a fractured party, while also reaching out to people and neighborhoods that Republicans have traditionally avoided. Does retail politicking matter in a state as large as Pennsylvania? It’s hard to say, but just by showing his face on the streets of Kensington, just by talking to people in Duquesne, Oz is showing that he’s not just rallying the base and hoping for the best. Since his nomination, he has tried to present the image of a moderate, not an ideologue. Tightening polls seem to suggest that it’s working.
READ MORE — What we learned from our Candidate Spotlight Series
Meanwhile Fetterman, whose only full-time job has been as an elected official, is showing himself fairly inept at campaigning for a promotion. Admittedly, part of this can be chalked up to the (possibly temporary) disabilities he acquired as a result of his stroke four days before his primary victory. But his refusal to deviate from far-left progressive positions could be chalked up to principle except that when he does flip-flop, as on fracking, the change is unexplained and clearly cynical.
As Oz stumps the state to build a coalition, Fetterman stumbles around and throws pot-shots on Twitter. His campaign has featured complete obfuscation on his health, a few propped-up events and tightly-orchestrated interviews (backlash from MSNBC, a friendly outlet to be certain). And a lot of jokes that most Pennsylvanians can’t afford as the price of groceries, home goods, transportation and almost everything else continues to skyrocket. All of it culminated in a debate performance so poor that only the Philadelphia Inquirer could manage to say with a straight face that he won.
Fetterman’s lies about his health and his continued refusal to release his health records dominate the headlines — and they should, at times, since they are evidence of how the candidate conducts himself. Secretive and dishonest with an all-consuming desire to be in charge of something, Fetterman and his campaign staff have not let the truth get in the way of a carefully crafted fable of an everyman standing up to the special interests. In this, he has had the unswerving support of most of the mainstream media, even after the debate performance exposed the emperor’s new Carhartt for the fraud it is.
Fetterman’s campaign is pure vibes, his statements little more than shots at his opponent’s wealth and residence status. Meanwhile, Oz has “done the work,” as they say, and applied the effort to politics that he previously applied to his medical and television careers.
Fetterman has not always followed the rules. Stories of his unpaid taxes and bullying of local businesses are two examples. The famous incident of him aiming a shotgun and an unarmed, innocent black jogger is another. This is not a man who works within the rule of law.
He is also not a man who likes to work, period. By now we all know that he lived off his affluent parents until he was 49 years old — it must be nice! But even to the extent he had a job, he seemed to quickly grow bored of the responsibilities. As mayor of Braddock — a part-time gig — Fetterman was criticized for failing to show up to city council meetings. As Lieutenant Governor, he has also kept “a light schedule” even for an office that does not demand very much of its occupant.
Take off the blue-collar costume and the bad tattoos and it’s easy to see who the rich dilettante is in this race, and it isn’t Mehmet Oz.
To all of this, Fetterman offers no answer. His campaign is pure vibes, his statements little more than shots at his opponent’s wealth and residence status. Meanwhile, Oz has “done the work,” as they say, and applied the effort to politics that he previously applied to his medical and television careers. There’s a clear choice before the electorate, and a different one than we might have imagined five months ago.
—The Editors of Broad + Liberty
Broad + Liberty is a nonprofit media endeavor dedicated to sharing voices and stories that are shut out of other media outlets. @BroadAndLiberty