Did Fetterman end his campaign in the debate?
John Fetterman’s debate with Mehmet Oz was worse than anyone could have expected. In retrospect, it was a political mistake to agree to the debate – even with the unprecedented effort to lower expectations.
In my long political involvement, I have seen candidates benefit from low expectations. Georgia Senate candidate Herschel Walker may have been one of those candidates. Usually, the lower expectations are the result of opposition and media attacks. President Reagan was a good example. He even once said that one of his strengths was low expectations.
It is rare – unheard of – for a campaign, itself, to set the low bar, as did Fetterman’s own press release. In it, they said that a debate is not the candidate’s best format – and that his opponent was more experienced in appearing before the camera. This already is not a good admission from a candidate who wants to be a member of what is called the “world’s greatest debating forum.”
The fact that Fetterman had to use Closed Captions to comprehend questions and answers was terrible optics. They must have known that at the planning stage.
Recognizing the potential pitfalls for Fetterman in a debate situation in which he had manifest comprehension issues is the apparent reason why Fetterman put the debate off until after many voters had already cast ballots. That was the only smart thing the campaign did in terms of debate strategy.
Even with the forewarnings and special considerations, team Fetterman must have been wincing in the back room as the candidate repeatedly floundered on stage. Even with the aid of Closed Captions, Fetterman made a number of imprecise and somewhat incoherent statements – using words that did not make sense in the context or out of context.
In most cases, it was possible to decipher what Fetterman meant, but it took deciphering. Some of the more notable examples:
Fetterman referred to the “living wage” as a “willing wage” – and then floundered in trying to explain his position on the issue.
In discussing abortion, Fetterman said that choice “beleans (sic) a woman and her doctors.” Other invented words included “vogotional schools” and “wayjuhlottaway.”
When asked by moderators why Fetterman has changed from anti-fracking to pro-fracking – showing a clip of his earlier opposition, Fetterman said that he was always in favor of fracking as if oblivious to his previous stance.
Fetterman often interrupted Oz with off-the-wall irrelevant comments such as “you roll with Doug Mastriano!” He even interrupted Oz’s closing remarks with a gratuitous “you want to cut social security.”
It was a pathetic performance, to say the least. One can feel sympathy for a man who suffered a stroke and has residual effects. But in this one debate, Fetterman tended to prove Oz’s expressed concerns over his opponent’s ability to serve effectively in the United States Senate. It has been a growing concern among Pennsylvania voters – and this debate will not assuage it.
Fetterman’s only defense on that issue of his health – in face of not releasing his actual medical records – was a letter from a doctor, who was not involved with Fetterman’s medical treatment, attesting to his fitness. The doctor has questionable credibility since he is a donor to the Fetterman campaign – and in view of what the audience could see unfolding in real time.
Given the trend toward Oz prior to the debate, it is very likely that the one-on-one confrontation has sent the Fetterman campaign over the cliff. That is my best guess at this time.
So, there ‘tis.