It was a month ago to the day that John Fetterman’s wife Gisele warned that he might be off the campaign trail for another month as he recovers from the stroke he suffered in May. That seemed unlikely to me at the time, probably a case of Team Fetterman setting unrealistically pessimistic expectations knowing that their guy would re-emerge sooner, maybe on Independence Day, to prove he’s recuperating faster than expected.
He’s still off the trail.
At this point, I’m curious to see how he’d fare in November if he didn’t hold any more campaign events. He’s popular among Pennsylvanians while his opponent, Mehmet Oz, is not. And Team Fetterman is running an aggressive offensive online on behalf of their candidate even if the candidate himself doesn’t seem to be participating all that much.
Could John Fetterman win a Senate seat in a Republican wave year by running a Biden-esque “basement campaign” all the way to Election Day?
I’d make him an underdog in those circumstances as voters would inevitably begin wonder if he’s up to the job, but not a hopeless one. Voters really don’t like Oz.
Fetterman’s spokesman told the media yesterday that he’s 90 percent back to normal and will return to campaigning “soon” — without specifying any dates. As Jim Geraghty said, given how shady Fetterman’s team has been about his condition in the past, there’s no reason to believe they’re telling the truth now.
“He is about 90% back to full strength and getting better,” spokesman Joe Calvello said…
“Every day John is meeting with and working with his campaign staff to make sure things are moving along and that the campaign is firing on all cylinders,” Mr. Calvello said. “He is also speaking with senators in Washington regularly about the race.”…
Day to day, Mr. Fetterman is “living a pretty normal life right now,” his campaign spokesman said. He’s been going out on dates with his wife, to dinner with his family, and has taken day trips to Erie and Johnstown, Mr. Calvello added.
Apparently Fetterman has spoken via video with both Biden and Sen. Ben Ray Lujan of New Mexico, who himself had a stroke earlier this year. Lujan’s condition was sufficiently severe that he ended up undergoing decompressive surgery to ease the swelling in his brain.
He was back on the job in Washington in about a month, half the time that Fetterman has been sidelined.
His staff is posting short proof-of-life videos — or proof-of-cogency, I should say — on social media, but I don’t know. This one raises more questions than it answers, I think:
I’m sure your holiday weekend was a lot more expensive than last year, I know ours was.
— John Fetterman (@JohnFetterman) July 5, 2022
That clip lasted all of 20 seconds yet Fetterman clearly had to read the text instead of memorizing it. He didn’t read it fluently either, seeming to miss a beat before the words “sticker shock.” There’s even a cut halfway through. How many takes did they need?
If he wants to assure voters that he’s cognitively fine while resting physically to recover from his ordeal, he could simply do a livestream. His team is Very Online; they could easily arrange it. Why haven’t they?
The deadline in Pennsylvania for replacing a candidate on the ballot is August. If Fetterman isn’t out on the trail, or at least livestreaming, by the end of the month then Dems there will face a hard decision. Do they switch to Conor Lamb, who got walloped by Fetterman in the primary? Or do they stick with the likable guy whose health is in doubt and hope that Pennsylvanians will let their distaste for Oz (and sympathy for Fetterman?) lead them to elect the Democrat?
In the meantime, his staff is doing what they can on platforms like Twitter and Instagram to keep fans engaged. Yesterday the Daily Beast wondered if Fetterman — or rather, Fetterman’s aides — can sh*tpost their way to the Senate with snarky memes aimed at mocking Oz, many of them accusing him of carpetbagging. Which is smart: In a populist age, when you have a significant “authenticity” advantage over your opponent, you’d be nuts not press it.
Giggle. 🤭 pic.twitter.com/DbcxSCiC8P
— John Fetterman (@JohnFetterman) June 23, 2022
If you’re OK with a celebrity TV doctor who ISN’T FROM PA and has a house that used to belong to King George…
I am, uh, not your candidate. pic.twitter.com/zf545GJg5R
— John Fetterman (@JohnFetterman) July 3, 2022
— John Fetterman (@JohnFetterman) July 3, 2022
Pennsylvania Dems have also been passing out yard signs that read “Oz for New Jersey,” the Times reports. It’s all clever enough as an on-the-fly substitute for active campaigning and as a strategy for shifting attention away from their candidate’s health issues, but it can only work for so long before Fetterman’s absence becomes a serious liability. I think.
Longtime friends of Fetterman say he is not fully healthy but is still very much his old self — gruff and iconoclastic, flaunting his stinging sense of humor, razor-sharp memory and an encyclopedic knowledge of political and cultural arcana.
Fetterman’s campaign has thought carefully about how to convey that he is on the road to recovery, while acknowledging that he is not 100 percent ready to return to the campaign trail. His aides are mindful that a major slip in his first outing could raise questions, perhaps even unfair ones, about his true condition.
Yeah, I don’t think we need an “outing” for those questions to be raised. I’ll leave you with one more clip from his campaign account, this time co-starring his wife. Note how smooth her delivery is compared to Fetterman’s, who seems to close his eyes briefly in frustration as he misses another beat before “Doc Hollywood.” Concerning.
Our campaign is funded by people like Yinz + Youse. Not some personal fortune built on TV + bogus diet pills
— John Fetterman (@JohnFetterman) July 6, 2022