Twitter was on fire Tuesday night watching the most anticipated political showdown of the 2022 midterm election cycle: the Pennsylvania Senate debate between GOP candidate Dr. Mehmet Oz and Democratic Lt. Gov. John Fetterman.
Ahead of the debate, the Fetterman campaign released a statement conceding that Oz would likely win and that “this isn’t John’s format.”
Fetterman, who suffered a stroke earlier this year, agreed to only one debate and had requested closed captioning for him to read due to auditory processing issues he still faces.
Critics on both sides of the aisle declared the debate a “disaster” for the Democrat.
FETTERMAN STUMBLES DURING DEBATE WHEN QUESTIONED ABOUT FLIP-FLOP ON SUPPORTING FRACKING
“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, adding, “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 reacted, later writing, “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.).”
“That was painful to watch,” Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Jenice Armstrong tweeted. “From the first verbal stumble by Fetterman all the way through to the end when he announced that he’s routing for the Steelers on Sunday.”
“My uncle suffered a stroke years back and still has aphasia. There’s no question whether his intelligence is intact — it is. The ability to process conversation in real time and respond is a lingering challenge, and that was absolutely a real issue tonight for Fetterman,” Politico reporter Natalie Allison wrote.
“Pretty selfish of Fetterman not to withdraw when he could have, but here we are,” Substack writer Josh Barro tweeted.
LIBERALS RUSH TO DEFEND FETTERMAN AS REPORTERS QUESTION HIS MENTAL FITNESS FOLLOWING NBC INTERVIEW
“This is the worst performance by any candidate I have ever seen in any debate. If this were a boxing match they would throw the towel in. This is sad,” OutKick founder Clay Travis declared. “@JohnFetterman’s entire campaign should be ashamed for letting this happen.”
“It feels politically and medically unethical to have Fetterman run for office right now. If the media can’t cover this very serious issue after the debate, they are truly hopeless,” FourthWatch media critic Steve Krakauer said.
“This debate shouldn’t be happening and Fetterman shouldn’t still be running. This just feels gross to watch,” conservative writer A.G. Hamilton said.
“This debate was a horrendous idea for Fetterman. Malpractice by his campaign to go forward with it,” Washington Free Beacon reporter Alana Goodman said.
Some pointed to a specific debate moment when Fetterman was grilled on his complete flip-flop on fracking. After a debate moderator called out his past opposition to it, Fetterman replied after a long pause, “I do support fracking and… I support fracking and I stand and I do support fracking.”
“Fetterman just melts down after a long pause when confronted about his flip flopping on fracking,” Townhall senior writer Julio Rosas reacted.
FETTERMAN STILL HAS ‘A HARD TIME UNDERSTANDING’ CONVERSATIONS, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT REPORTS
“this was a tough moment for Fetterman,” liberal journalist Aaron Rupar conceded.
“Moderator is now literally quoting Fetterman being against fracking. Fetterman is frazzled. Doesn’t know how to answer the question, then claims he’s always been for fracking. Moderator follows – reads the quote back again. Fetterman is silent for four seconds. A rhetorical TKO,” Fox News contributor Joe Concha summarized the moment.
Others echoed what liberals were telling them privately about Fetterman’s debate performance.
Axios senior political correspondent Josh Kraushaar quoted a Democratic lawmaker and “Fetterman backer” who said, “why the hell did Fetterman agree to this?” and “this will obviously raise more questions than answers about John’s health.”
NBC NEWS REPORTER ADMITS OZ IS ‘MAKING THE MEDIA REPORT ON FETTERMAN’S HEALTH’
“From my liberal journalist friend: ‘This is terrible. Fetterman is done,’” Substack writer Ryan James Girdusky tweeted.
“Democrats are asking the same thing post-debate: Why did Fetterman’s team allow him to take the stage tonight? No one I’m talking to on the left has a good thing to say about what just took place,” The Hill reporter Al Weaver wrote.
Polls have tightened in recent weeks with Fetterman previously having a comfortable lead over Oz. The RealClearPolitics average now has the Democrat up by roughly one point.
Fox News Power Rankings has the Pennsylvania Senate race as a toss-up.