Questions are swirling over whether Democratic Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman’s Senate campaign can recover following his unsteady debate performance against Republican nominee Dr. Mehmet Oz on Tuesday, with Democratic strategists divided over the issue.
Many critics said Fetterman’s health hindered him during the debate, citing his stammered speech and seeming inability to complete certain thoughts throughout the event, while some referred to his performance as an all-out “disaster.”
The Democrat began the debate noting his continued recovery from a stroke he suffered earlier in the year, as well as the criticism from the Oz campaign concerning his health, and admitted that he would likely “miss some words” or “mush two words together” throughout the debate.
“Fetterman, even with technical assistance, clearly had issues expressing himself, raising fundamental questions about his serving as an effective senator,” strategist Mark Penn told Fox News Digital following the debate.
PENNSYLVANIA SENATE DEBATE: FETTERMAN VS. OZ – 5 TOP TAKEAWAYS
“Personal charges against each other aside, Oz achieved his objectives while Fetterman raised more questions about his ableness,” he added.
Mike Mikus, a Pennsylvania-based Democratic strategist, took a more positive view to Fetterman’s performance, telling Fox it wouldn’t hinder his chances at winning the general election.
“I do not think it will reshape the race,” he said. “There’s no doubt that Fetterman struggled with his words at times, but I don’t think that’s what will move undecided voters.”
“Undecided voters already had plenty of time to weigh whether he was capable to do the job. It’s going to come down to the issues they care about, and I still think Fetterman wins on Nov. 8,” he added.
OZ-FETTERMAN DEBATE: LIBERAL MEDIA ADMITS DEMOCRAT CANDIDATE WAS ‘PAINFUL TO WATCH’
Another strategist with knowledge of the race said it was unclear whether Fetterman’s performance would hurt him and pointed to the final week of campaigning as to when it would become clear.
“We won’t know if this debate had any impact in the polls until a week from now,” the strategist said. “Memes on social media and GOP ads will tell us if the debate had any effect on the race.”
“The race has tightened because Republicans have come home and are now getting behind Oz. But stroke or no stroke, this was always going to be a tight race,” the strategist added.
PENNSYLVANIA CANDIDATE FETTERMAN SHOWING AUDITORY PROCESSING DISORDER SYMPTOMS, ‘CAN WORK FULL DUTY’: DOCTOR
The Oz campaign declared victory in the debate once it concluded, saying in a press release that the doctor was the candidate that would best “represent all Pennsylvanians.”
Fetterman campaign communications director Joe Calvello defended the Democrat’s performance, telling members of the media following the debate that he “took it to Dr. Oz pretty f—ing hard.”
Fox News’ Power Rankings has rated the race a toss-up.
The election will be held Tuesday, Nov. 8.