"Very nervous": Pennsylvania Dems wonder when Fetterman will return to the campaign trail

AP Photo/Marc Levy

Not just when, but whether. State Dems are reportedly brushing up on Pennsylvania’s laws for replacing a candidate on the ballot, reports NBC. Just in case.


The word from Team Fetterman is that everything’s ship-shape following his stroke. His cognition is fine, his heart is fine (now that he’s had a pacemaker implanted), he just had a check-up, life couldn’t be better. But the candidate himself has been curiously unavailable to the press these past two weeks. There hasn’t been so much as a single live phone interview with a reporter, only the occasional recorded video. Everything goes through Mrs. Fetterman and his comms director at the moment, it appears.

Which is strange, right? In the age of Zoom, why can’t he do a media availability from the comfort of his own sofa while he rests? Nothing would reassure the public that he’s en route to a speedy recovery like seeing the candidate in action.

There’s been no media access to his doctors either despite the numerous questions raised by outside media experts about whether Fetterman has an underlying heart problem that’s being covered up. Hmmm.

Pennsylvania Dems are getting itchy about the unusual inaccessibility of their new nominee in the midst of a high-profile health crisis, per NBC:

There has been “no indication” of a timeline for Fetterman’s return to the trail, said an elected Pennsylvania Democrat who has interacted with Fetterman. “A lot of us Democratic Party types are very nervous about it.” The official, who asked not to be named to avoid blowback from his party, said Fetterman needs to be transparent both because it’s the right thing to do and good politics

“I think people I’ve talked to — myself included — don’t know what to make of it,” said a veteran Pennsylvania Democratic strategist who requested anonymity to speak candidly about a sensitive subject. “It’s not like Fetterman has close institutional allies, so Dems are calling around wanting to ask the question, but no clue where to get a sense of how serious it is.”…

[Another Democratic] source added that there is “some real concern,” in part because “there has not been a lot of communication” from Fetterman’s team and it is “unclear what his health is.”


I understand him being off the campaign trail to relax and recuperate given the physical ordeal his body’s been through. I can’t understand why reporters can’t get him on the phone. It reeks of his campaign trying to hide something, possibly some temporary side effect of his stroke or the medication he’s on which they’re hoping will resolve before the public gets a glimpse of it. Even if Fetterman is mentally and physically fine, any hint of a lingering ailment — a speech impediment, say — will raise doubt about his long-term health. One Democratic source told NBC that they caught a lucky break when the Republican Senate primary went to a recount. If it hadn’t, he said, local media would be consumed with questions about Fetterman’s condition.

Gisele Fetterman continues to respond to reporters in lieu of her husband. She told Politico yesterday that his first follow-up visit to the doctor following his stroke went as well as she could have hoped.

“The neurologists, they were really impressed with the progress. Cognitively, he’s perfect and well on his way to a full recovery,” said Gisele Fetterman. “Everything went well with the cardiologists. His heart is looking good. Pacemaker is working as it’s supposed to.”

However, Gisele Fetterman said her husband’s doctors “want him to continue to rest.”…

Gisele Fetterman said Wednesday that his physicians did not say when he can return to the trail. However, she said, “the campaign will have an announcement for that soon.”…

Fetterman has been returning to some of his campaign duties. Gisele Fetterman said her husband is expected to speak with President Joe Biden this week, a call that had to be delayed twice previously because he was resting.


She said that he held a meeting with his senior campaign staff yesterday and promised that the media will eventually be able to speak with his doctors. “We’re working on that. That is coming next.”

Lotta “soons” and “nexts” from Mrs. F while being careful not to provide a specific timetable. He’ll be back out there meeting voters again and his physicians will update the public … soon. Eventually. At some point.

The fact that Fetterman won his primary so easily, and is so distinctive in style from the second-place finisher, Conor Lamb, means Pennsylvania Dems are in trouble if they end up having to replace him on the ballot. Lamb is a good candidate on paper — a Marine, a congressman, part of a modest Pennsylvania political dynasty. But he got crushed by Fetterman in this year’s Senate contest, 59/26. He’s a centrist Democrat too, unlike the progressive populist Fetterman, and he presents as clean-cut and buttoned-down in contrast to Fetterman’s burly, shaved-head, tatted-up bouncer look. Replacing Fetterman with him isn’t an apples-to-apples substitution in which Pennsylvania’s Democratic voters might be expected to be equally excited about either, in other words. We’d expect a fall-off in enthusiasm if Lamb is the nominee, which would probably doom Democrats in a year when Republican turnout should be sky high.

So Dems need Fetterman on the floor here. He’s one of a kind and might be the only Democrat in America at the moment capable of cutting meaningfully into the GOP’s advantage with rural voters. (Especially against a character like Mehmet Oz.) Him having to bow out would be another terrible break for liberals in a 12-month span that’s been full of them.


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