John Fetterman is back on the campaign trail after a stroke

ERIE, PA—Booked by two large American flags draped on the wall behind him, Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman walked to the stage Friday night for the first rally of his 2022 Senate bid. May.

But with his absence from the track amid attacks from his Republican opponent Mehmet Oz — and Fetterman’s insistence that he’s been hiding out in a basement during the summer months while he recovers from his stroke — Fetterman didn’t shy away from the subject when speaking at a crowd Friday night.

In fact, he led it.

Introduced by his wife Giselle, who had her own cheering fans, she called him a “stroke survivor” and thanked the crowd for welcoming her husband back to the track. Without missing a beat, Fetterman stepped up to the microphone and tackled Oz’s line of rhetoric head-on.

“Are we in Erie or am I fitting 1,400 people in my basement?” he teased. According to the campaign, the final attendance figure was 1,355.

The Senate hopeful recounted his stroke experience, becoming emotional as he retold the story of his wife catching wind from her stroke before it was too late. “Giselle saved my life,” he said, near the well-equipped health facility, an apparent touchstone for his position in recognizing quality health-care access across the country.

“I am very grateful. I am very lucky. So thank you for being here tonight,” he said.

Fetterman’s return to the campaign trail marks a significant turning point in the race. In what is predicted to be one of the most competitive races this cycle, Democrats need every advantage they can get in Pennsylvania, including valuable time with voters. Pennsylvania is also being targeted by national Democrats as one of their best chances—to add to their numbers in the Senate or prevent Democrats from losing their majority.

While Fetterman has faced some pushback for not being entirely transparent about the nature of his stroke from the start, it didn’t seem like he had lost love with his base on Friday.

“He’s very open and forthcoming…things happen to human bodies. We’ve both had things happen and we’re walking here,” Erie resident Jane Asher told The Daily Beast as she motioned to her partner.

The crowd lined the entrance block, filled with Fetterman’s black-and-white campaign signs on cardboard. Campaign workers gave marchers yellow and black cloths emblazoned with the name “Fetterman” to wave in the wind like the Pittsburgh Steelers’ signature “Terrible Towels.” Classic rock blasted over the speakers – at the Bayfront Convention Center just off the crest of Lake Erie.

Just as he did when he left a campaign hearing three months ago, Fetterman wore his signature hoodie and baggy bottoms.

The Democratic Senate hopeful didn’t mince words in outlining why Erie County was his choice for his first campaign rally of the Senate cycle. A longtime political bellwether for Pennsylvania, Erie is everything Fetterman’s campaign hopes to highlight this cycle.

It’s a blue-collar, working-class part of the state that doesn’t naturally vote Democratic. It fits perfectly with his model of “every district, every vote” — a phrase he used to argue that Democrats should target votes in deep red areas as much as in their metropolitan safe havens.

“If you can’t win Erie County, you can’t win Pennsylvania,” Fetterman told the crowd.

Fetterman, who only spent about 10 minutes on stage before shaking hands and taking selfies, had another important topic on the agenda: Oz.

Like his Twitter feed, which has become a constant stream of shitposting on the Republican hopeful, Fetterman spouts zany one-liners to the TV doctor, asking the crowd, “Do you think Dr. Oz could fill a room like this? “

The crowd responded with a resounding “No”.

When asked for comment, Oz’s campaign said Fetterman “refuses to be honest with Pennsylvanians or the press about his extreme policies and history of not being a show for the commonwealth.”

“Meanwhile, Dr. Mehmet Oz is campaigning across the commonwealth, listening and sharing the concerns of the people he meets, and showing up for Pennsylvanians unlike John Fetterman. Pennsylvanians deserve answers from Fetterman now. It’s long overdue,” said Oz’s Communications Director Brittany Yannick.

Fetterman called out the press, suggesting they do a fact-check on how many mansions Oz owns. (It is difficult to ascertain exactly how many mansions Oz belongs, but Oz reported assets of $100 million (His campaign filing.)

Another Erie resident, John Whaley, told The Daily Beast he will vote for Voting against Fetterman and Oz. But Whaley added that he suspected some were voting “to get Oz out.”

“And MAGA fanatics, and ultra MAGA,” Whaley added, “we don’t need any of that.”

Another Erie Democrat, Mike Kurutz, told The Daily Beast he doesn’t think politics needs another “entertainment,” questioning whether someone like Carrot Top could be next.

The Oz campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Fetterman’s appearance Friday night — and Fetterman did not take questions from reporters during the event.

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