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John Fetterman agrees to debate Dr. Mehmet Oz on Oct. 25

Poll finds Democrats leading in Pennsylvania
CBS News poll: Democrats leading key contests in Pennsylvania 04:11

Pennsylvania's Democratic U.S. Senate candidate John Fetterman on Wednesday agreed to debate his Republican challenger, Dr. Mehmet Oz, on Oct. 25 in an event hosted by Nexstar Television.

Oz has tried to push Fetterman to earlier debates, especially as Fetterman, the state's lieutenant governor, recovered after suffering from a stroke in May, just days before the primary. 

While Fetterman was off the campaign trail, he conducted his campaign almost entirely online. Although he returned to the trail last month, Fetterman told CBS Pittsburgh KDKA-TV at the time that he still suffered from some speech issues and sometimes he will "miss a word or mush two words together."

A CBS News Battleground Tracker poll published Wednesday found that in Pennsylvania, 57% of Republicans found it is important for a candidate to debate, compared to 30% of Democrats.   

John Fetterman, Mehmet Oz Nate Smallwood/Getty Images, Stephanie Keith/Getty Images

Oz has sought to make a campaign issue out of Fetterman's health, saying that if he is too ill to debate, then he is too ill to serve in the U.S. Senate. Retiring Republican Sen. Pat Toomey told KDKA last week that that "level of intense engagement and debate and discussion is absolutely fundamental to this job" in the U.S. Senate. 

"If he's not able to do that, then frankly, he's not going to be able to be an effective senator, and Pennsylvania voters ought to know that," Toomey added.

Fetterman has insisted he has always been upfront about his health. His campaign countered last week that he marched in Pittsburgh's Labor Day parade for two hours and then spoke briefly at two events, including the United Steelworkers picnic with President Biden.

Oz tried to push Fetterman into a Labor Day debate on KDKA, with Fetterman maintaining he would participate in a later debate. While candidates have historically agreed to a debate on KDKA, those debates are not usually until October. 

Democrats see Pennsylvania as one of their best chances to flip a Senate seat — the state went for Mr. Biden, although just by over 1 point. The CBS News Battleground Tracker published Wednesday found that Fetterman leads Oz by 5 points, 56 days before Election Day.

Fetterman had a decisive victory in the May primary and raised a massive $11 million from April until the end of June, far outraising Oz's $3.8 million over the same period, which included $2.2 million that he loaned the campaign. According to analysis from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, contributing to Fetterman's advantage was small-dollar donors, with $5.1 million being raised from those who gave less than $200, compared to Oz's $153,000.

While he was off the campaign trail, Fetterman was able to garner headlines —  and fundraise —  from viral social media posts and stunts, including paying "Jersey Shore" star  Nicole "Snooki" Polizzi to record a Cameo telling Oz "Jersey will not forget you." 

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