CNBC is reporting today that Mehmet Oz is stepping up his attacks on John Fetterman’s health.

“John Fetterman is either healthy and he’s dodging the debate because he does not want to answer for his radical left positions, or he’s too sick to participate in the debate,” Oz told reporters here at a news conference inside a cramped and partitioned hotel ballroom…

“In addition to the character problem of being dishonest, if he’s really not able to debate, then there’s a big problem,” Toomey said, noting that Fetterman has offered optimistic accounts about his recovery. “As someone who served in the United States Senate for almost 12 years now, I have a really good understanding of how the place works. If John Fetterman were elected to the Senate, and he’s not able to communicate effectively, if he’s not able to engage with the press, if he’s not able to engage with his colleagues, he will not be able to do the job.”

This isn’t really a new phenomenon. Oz has been going after Fetterman’s health for weeks. He’s specifically been pressing for a debate, something which Fetterman’s people have admitted he’s been ducking. “We are working to figure out what a fair debate would look like with the lingering impacts of the auditory processing in mind,” his campaign strategist said.

Yesterday, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette published an editorial arguing that, if you set aside the nastiness of the campaign, Fetterman’s health is a legitimate issue for voters to be concerned about.

Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. and U.S. Senate candidate John Fetterman has not fully recovered from the serious stroke he suffered in May. His campaign has acknowledged his obvious struggles with “auditory processing” and speech, but the persistence of those struggles has contrasted with the campaign’s rosier predictions of a return to the rigors of campaigning, including debating his opponent, Mehmet Oz…

…Mr. Oz has raised legitimate concerns. If Mr. Fetterman’s communication skills have not yet recovered sufficiently to effectively debate his opponent, many voters will have concerns about his ability to represent them effectively in Washington. While he has gamely undertaken more campaign events and media interviews in recent weeks, Mr. Fetterman still speaks haltingly and relies on closed captioning to fully understand his conversation partners.

Mr. Fetterman’s campaign asserts confidently that he will make a full recovery, and that he is doing the hard work — including speech therapy — to accelerate that recovery. That is hopeful and laudable, but stroke recovery is notoriously unpredictable. The campaign’s early predictions proved optimistic; the more recent predictions of “several months” to a “complete recovery” may prove optimistic, too.

The real test of Fetterman’s ability to do the job would be a live debate with Oz. “Voters have a right to know whether their prospective senator can do the job” the editorial board concludes.

Today, a spokesperson for Fetterman once again dodged the question:

“Anyone who’s seen John speak knows that while he’s still recovering, he’s more capable of fighting for PA than Dr. Oz will ever be,” [spokesperson Joe] Calvello said. “And anyone who’s seen Dr. Oz speak knows he’s a complete fraud. We have said repeatedly that we are open to debating Oz, and we’re talking with networks, but let’s be clear: This isn’t about debates. This is about mocking John for having a stroke because they’ve got nothing else, and because they don’t want to talk about the fact that Oz wants to ban abortions and believes all abortion is ‘murder.’”

That’s some pointed rhetoric but the question now is whether Fetterman can deliver any of these barbs himself or if he’s dependent on others to do his knife-work for him.

So far it looks as if Fetterman’s campaign believes they can sidestep their way to victory. They may be right. With only two months left before the election they are clearly looking to run out the clock and the media, as always, seems to be on the side of the Democrat. I guess we’ll see if the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s editorial manages to shame a few more papers in the state to call for Fetterman to show up and debate Dr. Oz, but I’m not holding my breath.

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