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As polls tighten, Fetterman announces historic fundraising, calls on friends for support

As poll results have tightened in the race for the U.S. Senate, Democrat John Fetterman’s campaign has tried to turn the attack back on his opponent, Dr. Mehmet Oz. On Thursday, it also brought reinforcements in the form of Pennsylvania Sen. Bob Casey and Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown to stump for Fetterman in Western Pennsylvania.

Fetterman’s campaign announced Thursday that it had raised $22 million in the past three months, doubling the amount he raised in the previous quarter, and setting a record for a U.S. Senate candidate in Pennsylvania. Earlier this week, Oz’s campaign announced that his campaign had raised $17 million, which included a $7 million loan that Oz made to his own campaign.

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Although Fetterman is out-fundraising Oz, Reuters reported this week that national Republican groups have spent $20 million recently attacking Fetterman. The millions of dollars in ads have attacked Fetterman, especially for his record on crime, which has cut into the share of voters who have a favorable opinion of Fetterman.

And these attacks appear to be paying off. A large Fetterman lead in the polls during the summer has been fading, and the Pennsylvania Senate race has become a toss-up again, according to the Cook Political Report. Although Fetterman has continued to lead in nearly every poll by an average of 4 percentage points, Oz’s support has increased by around 6 points, according to the Upshot,

In Beaver County, the two senators largely emphasized labor union issues in their speeches to a crowd of around 100 people that appeared to be evenly split between retirees and union members. Casey told the crowd to push back against corporate interests that were undermining their union rights — ”the same corporate power that's attacking John Fetterman now. Tens and tens and tens of millions of dollars lying about his record, lying about him.”

Fetterman’s campaign tried to shift the attack back on Oz. Fetterman, who is still suffering side effects from his stroke earlier this year, spoke for less than four minutes.

“I don't have a whole lot really to say above and beyond the choice that we have before us right now. You have somebody that doesn't stand up for workers. He is somebody that is never told the truth about their own situation,” he said.

Rodd Kavic, a teacher in Allegheny County, said he came to see Fetterman speak for the first time, in part to size him up, and in part to show support. He came with a friend since college, Steve Pennell, who said he wanted to see how Fetterman was doing after his stroke. Jan Carpenter, a retired caseworker from the Department of Public Welfare who lives in Ambridge, said she wanted to see support for health care and abortion access.

The largest applause during Fetterman’s speech came in response to his pledge to establish a national right to abortion.

A group of five doctors opposed to Oz’s campaign held an event in Philadelphia, just as the event in Monaca ended. The doctors say that Oz has been using his medical credentials as the main argument for why he would be a good senator. But Dr. Belinda Birnbaum from Montgomery County said Oz has recommended products that he benefited from financially and recommended other products with little evidence to back them.

“When doctors give advice and recommendations, we know that we need our patients to trust us,” she said. “And it's a real privilege to earn and have that trust. So we can't stand by and watch somebody who's already undermined that trust.”

Even as Fetterman’s campaign tried to turn the attention on critiques of Oz, a new line of attack on Fetterman gained traction Thursday: The Associated Press published a reportshowing that Fetterman missed a number of events as lieutenant governor and had a light official schedule. This included missing between a third and a half of the Pennsylvania Senate meetings over which he was supposed to preside.

In response, Fetterman’s campaign emphasized how he has used his elected positions to promote issues through unconventional means that don’t show up on an official schedule.

“As lieutenant governor, my record of showing up and shaking up this office has transformed the Board of Pardons, saved Pennsylvania millions in taxpayer dollars and grown support in our state for defending LGBTQIA+ rights, weed legalization, union workers and raising the minimum wage,” Fetterman said in a statement prior to the event in Monaca.

Oliver Morrison is a general assignment reporter at WESA. He previously covered education, environment and health for PublicSource in Pittsburgh and, before that, breaking news and weekend features for the Wichita Eagle in Kansas.