Tuesday night marks the pivotal moment in what may be the most significant election of the year, one that might determine which political party controls the U.S. Senate.
The Democratic lieutenant governor of Pennsylvania, John Fetterman, will debate Mehmet Oz, a well-known TV doctor running to replace retiring Republican Sen. Pat Toomey.
Extremely big stakes are involved. Following more than $35 million in GOP advertisements, many of which depicted Fetterman as being soft on crime, the polling leads he held throughout the summer have been reduced to statistical ties within the range of error.
It will also be many voters’ first chance to see and hear Fetterman since his stroke just days before the May primary, aside from events he’s held in recent weeks as he’s adopted a more demanding public schedule. The Democrat has given only a few interviews since disclosing that he is experiencing speech and auditory processing issues, which are common in stroke sufferers.
The debate, which will begin at 8 p.m. ET and be broadcast live throughout the state, will be moderated by WHTM, an ABC station in Harrisburg. The campaigns and debate organizers have agreed to employ closed captioning so that Fetterman can read questions and responses that have been uttered and promptly transcribed.
A memo from Fetterman’s campaign was circulated to journalists and other “interested parties” on Monday, in which it was claimed that Oz, a political novice, would feel more at home on the debate stage than Fetterman would.
While clinging to a recent Philadelphia Inquirer study in which “leading political reporters” noted that Fetterman “wasn’t terrific at debates” even before the stroke, senior adviser Rebecca Katz and campaign manager Brendan McPhillips portrayed Oz as a seasoned professional on television.