HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — Five months before the November election, Democrats remain publicly confident in John Fetterman’s health and his prospects of defeating Mehmet Oz.
“I keep hearing all this talk that people are nervous about John Fetterman’s health,” said Danielle Gross, a Democratic political commentator for abc27 News and director of communications for the public affairs firm Shelly Lyons, referring to several national media stories in recent days. “But I’m only seeing that reported in the news” — not, she said, from “people who are campaigning or from, you know, regular Pennsylvanians.”
Does that public brave face bely private anxiety?
Not for the most part, for now, said Jake Lahut, a senior politics reporter for Business Insider, who is covering the race.
“I don’t think very many Democrats are panicking about John Fetterman’s health status,” Lahut said.
When might that change, if Fetterman remains off the campaign trail?
“Mid-to-late June, going into July, that might be when you start to hear more chattering among, you know, the campaign consultant class and folks like that,” Lahut said.
Fetterman has already resumed his role as lieutenant governor, conducting those duties remotely.
Fetterman’s doctor said back in 2017, he diagnosed the Democratic lieutenant governor and U.S. Senate candidate with atrial fibrillation. But he said Fetterman didn’t take prescribed medication and didn’t see a doctor for five years.
Lahut said the most comparable event in recent years to Fetterman’s stroke might be when Bernie Sanders suffered a heart attack while running for the Democratic nomination for president. Sanders stopped campaigning publicly for about three weeks. Although didn’t win the nomination, the health setback didn’t seem to play an important role in voters’ choices.
“John’s cardiologist literally just said that John ‘should be able to campaign and serve in the U.S. Senate without a problem,'” Joe Calvello, the Fetterman campaign’s communications director, told abc27 News in a statement. “Anyone suggesting otherwise is being irresponsible and ignorant.”
For the record, in the however-unlikely event Fetterman can’t resume campaigning, Democrats would have until late August to choose a different nominee.
“God willing, it won’t have to happen here for the sake of the lieutenant governor,” said Chip Becker, a lawyer who teaches state constitutional law at the University of Pennsylvania. “But should he be unable to fulfill his responsibilities as a candidate then yes, there is a process.”
Becker said a candidate like Fetterman could back out as late as 85 days before the general election, and the party could name a different nominee until 75 days before the election. That would be Aug. 25.
“We’re glad John is recovering well and getting the rest he needs to run a vigorous and successful general election campaign,” Jason Henry, the Pennsylvania Democratic party’s executive director, told abc27 news.
“John is getting better every day,” Calvello said. “He is taking his time, but is on his way to a full recovery. He appreciates the outpouring of support that he has gotten from people across the commonwealth.”
Even if Democrats don’t think Fetterman’s health is an issue, that doesn’t mean it won’t be an issue.
“If the Oz campaign wants to make it an issue, that’s a totally different thing, especially because cardiology is basically the wheelhouse of Oz’s medical career,” Lahut said.
But he said just because Oz could make it an issue doesn’t mean he should.
“I think there would be a real risk with voters of appearing kind of cruel in going after a candidate’s health like that,” he said.