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Pennsylvania Senate candidate John Fetterman to return to in-person campaigning after stroke in May

Election 2022 Senate Pennsylvania Social Media
FILE - Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, the Democratic candidate for the Pennsylvania Senate seat, speaks during a video interview from his home in Braddock, Pa., July 20, 2022. Julian Routh / AP

Pennsylvania Lt. Governor John Fetterman will return to in-person campaigning next week after recovering from a stroke in May. The Democratic Senate candidate will be holding a rally in Erie, Penn., next Friday.

The rally will mark his first appearance at a major public campaign event since his stroke, which occurred just before the state's primary. Since then, Fetterman has mostly been engaging with voters through social media and advertising while he recovers, apart from a series of in-person fundraisers he attended last month.

Erie County is an important bellwether for the Keystone State. President Donald Trump won it in 2016 by barely 1 point over Hillary Clinton. In 2020, then-candidate Joe Biden flipped it back to blue, also by just 1 point. In May, Fetterman won Erie County in the Democratic primary with 23,200 votes, nearly 80% of the primary vote. In the Republican primary, his opponent Dr. Mehmet Oz, who visited Erie on Wednesday, came in second in the county, receiving 7,500 votes. 

"Before the 2020 election, I said that if I could know one single fact about the results, I could tell you who was going to win Pennsylvania. Whoever wins Erie County will win Pennsylvania," said Fetterman. "I've visited Erie dozens and dozens of times in the past, and I am honored and proud to be returning to the campaign trail here."

Hours after announcing the rally, Fetterman's team also revealed the campaign had surpassed 1 million individual contributions since its launch last year. 

The Senate race in Pennsylvania is a crucial battleground for both parties fighting over who will control the Senate after the November elections. Democrats see it as a possible pickup,  with GOP Senator Pat Toomey retiring. 

Though he's been sidelined from the campaign trail for a few months, Fetterman has nonetheless been leading Oz in recent polls.  A Fox News poll in late July showed him leading Oz by 11 points. The USA Today/Suffolk poll in June had him up by 9 points.

Since the primary, Fetterman's campaign has spent nearly $4.5 million on advertising across the state including more than $1 million on digital ads.  By comparison, Oz and the National Republican Senatorial Committee together have spent just over $3.5 million, and most of that was through the NRSC. Oz has spent just $17,000 on digital ads.

Fetterman has also been tweaking Oz, a well-known TV personality, with a series of viral videos in which paints him as out of touch with Pennsylvanian voters and slams him as a carpetbagger. One video featured a mashup of clips of Oz talking about being from New Jersey. Fetterman's campaign has also trolled him with videos of known New Jerseyans, featuring Snooki from the "Jersey Shore" reality TV show and former "Sopranos" star Stevie Van Zandt

More recently in another video put out by Fetterman's campaign, Oz is seen kissing his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, playing basketball on a private court, and ziplining. 

"It's very hard to discern significant differences in happiness in someone who's making $50,000 and $50 million," Oz can be heard saying in the clip posted on Twitter.

Minutes before Fetterman's campaign announced the in-person rally, Oz's team took aim at Fetterman's absence from the campaign trail with the launch of a new website showing Fetterman hasn't had an in-person campaign event since May 12.

"Clearly, Fetterman is afraid to answer publicly for a life well-lived on his parents' dime and his radical stances on banning fracking, decriminalizing all drugs, allowing sanctuary cities, and releasing criminals onto our streets," said Brittany Yanick, Oz's Communications Director. "Meanwhile, Dr. Mehmet Oz is showing up for Pennsylvanians and will continue to outwork John Fetterman who refuses to answer for his dangerous views. Pennsylvanians deserve answers."

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