Democratic Senate candidate John Fetterman enjoyed a narrow lead over Republican opponent Dr. Mehmet Oz prior to his “painful” debate performance on Tuesday, according to a Thursday poll from Franklin & Marshall College.
The poll, conducted from October 14-23, found that Fetterman enjoyed 49% support from likely voters, while Oz secured 45%. Oz and Fetterman met for their first and only public debate three days after the poll closed, an event many viewers called “painful” for Fetterman.
The senate candidate suffered a stroke on the campaign trail earlier this year, and he has struggled to follow conversations and express himself effectively in the months since. His campaign has refused to release his medical records despite his condition being on full display to voters Tuesday evening.
Fetterman’s performance found few defenders, even among media figures sympathetic to Democrats.
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“John Fetterman’s ability to communicate is seriously impaired. Pennsylvania voters will be talking about this obvious fact even if many in the media will not,” MSNBC host Joe Scarborough wrote during the debate. “This is painful to watch regardless of one’s politics.”
“There is no amount of empathy for and understanding about Fetterman’s health and recovery that changes the fact that this is absolutely painful to watch,” New York Magazine correspondent Olivia Nuzzi tweeted.
“So far this is a disaster for Fetterman,” Time correspondent Charlotte Alter wrote, later adding, “I spoke to Fetterman recently, and I expected him to be very bad tonight. But he was much much worse than I expected (and much worse than in our one-on-one conversation.).”
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The Franklin & Marshall poll found that voters were more sympathetic to Fetterman on social issues but trusted Oz to be more effective on economic issues. Economic issues like inflation also polled as by far the most important for voters.
Nevertheless, the survey indicated that Republican voters were dissatisfied with their candidates in the state, with both Oz and gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano polling well behind a “generic Republican candidate.”
The Franklin & Marshall poll surveyed 620 registered Pennsylvania voters over the phone and online. The group included 280 Democrats, 254 Republicans and 86 Independents, and the poll reports a margin of error of 5.3%.