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Fetterman’s Blue-Collar Allure Is Tested in Pennsylvania Senate Race

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Marysville, Pennsylvania — “It goes without saying that it’s hard to be a Democrat in Westmoreland County.”

Westmoreland Democratic Party Speaker Michelle McFaul introduced Lieutenant John Fetterman of Pennsylvania to supporters in a bright red Pittsburgh suburb this week.

About 100 people gathered in the parking lot behind a Fetterman campaign bus bearing the slogan “Every County, Every Vote.” That’s the strategy for Mr. Fetterman’s senatorial candidacy, announced last year. video Reminiscent of a Springsteen song, it shows a small town where people “feel left behind” and promises that “Fetterman can get a lot of those voters.”

Now, in the last few weeks of Election Day, the polls say narrowing race In a pivotal battle for control of the Senate, the premise that Mr. Fetterman can win over local voters, including some who backed former President Donald J. Trump, is straining.

Mr. Fetterman has limited his campaign schedule because he is recovering from a stroke and cannot visit “every county.” He’s faced a blistering attack from the Republican Party that seems to antagonize voters, especially over his criminal record.percentage of voters Who looks down on Mr. Fetterman Many Republicans reluctantly rallied in support of their nominee Mehmet Oz. It’s a classic battleground state, but Democrat anxiety is growing.

In a five-minute speech, Mr. Fetterman told supporters in Westmoreland County, where Trump won by 28 points in 2020, that they “must thwart red counties” by rallying votes. Mr. Fetterman, still recovering from a stroke in May, spoke fluently but slowly, with gaps between his words. That’s because his campaign was forced to veer from relying on Mr. Fetterman’s charisma in front of crowds in Spring Stump’s appearance to a strategy that focused on social media and TV advertising. His one roundtable discussion with Dr. Oz is scheduled for October 25th.

In a vast rural area of ​​Pennsylvania, Fetterman’s campaign aims to improve President Biden’s 2020 performance. President Biden is another candidate who relied on his Everyman charm and won the state by a small margin.

If Fetterman can’t match Biden’s crushing victory in the Philadelphia suburbs, he may need to outperform Biden in red counties.

Much of Fetterman’s fascination with rural and working-class locations doesn’t stop there. his policy ideas Expand broadband, or “make more in America.” His power is his brand, in his casual attire, shaved head and tattoos, which convey that he’s not a cookie-cutter politician.

Larry McGee, the Democratic Commissioner for Washington County, a blue-collar region in southwestern Pennsylvania, said Fetterman is infiltrating working-class voters who have ditched the Democratic Party.

“What I see is people like the Democratic unionists and gals who voted for Donald Trump and they liked Fetterman and came back. He’s what he stands for.” , he looks like them — tattoos and a little marijuana smoking,” Maggie said. “He excites them.” (Mr. Fetterman supports legalizing recreational marijuana, but He said that he does not use it himself. )

Polls widely support the idea that Mr. Fetterman shares a common image with Monmouth College Investigation This week, 57% of Pennsylvania voters said Mr. Fetterman understands the everyday concerns of people like them. Only 39% said the same thing about Dr. Oz, a former heart surgeon and celebrity TV host.

But Westmoreland County Democratic Party Speaker McFaul said the new offensive ad against Mr Fetterman on local radio seeks to tarnish his public image.

“What I hear on the radio now is that John Fetterman is a spoiled rich kid living away from his parents and pretending to be the public,” Ms McFall said. Says, the purpose of the attack is to elicit working-class indignation: “‘I don’t have what this man has, it’s not fair.'”

Mr. Fetterman grew up in a wealthy neighborhood near York, Pennsylvania. For 13 years, he served as mayor of Braddock, a suburb of Pittsburgh. The town was devastated by the industrial collapse. This job earned him $150 a year, and the family supported him until he became lieutenant governor at the age of 49.

In an interview, Fetterman said his family supported his life choice of working “in an abandoned community.” Although not widely known, he does not hide the help of his family.

Dr. Oz said it’s unclear whether attacks against his privileged background, which he said he’s making a “pretending populist,” are alienating working-class voters.

How do Times reporters report politics? We trust journalists to be independent observers. As such, Times staff members may vote, but are not permitted to endorse or campaign for any candidate or political cause. This includes participating in marches or rallies in support of causes, making donations or fundraising to political candidates or electoral causes.

I interviewed more than a dozen self-proclaimed independent voters in Westmoreland and other red counties this week to find out more about Mr. Fetterman’s background, Dr. Other fleeting issues were not mentioned by anyone. upon.

The issue most commonly raised by voters, including some Oz supporters, was that Dr. Oz had just moved to Pennsylvania in 2020, so he wasn’t a “real” Pennsylvanian. For several long-term imprisoned men serving life sentences on murder charges, prison officials said they did not pose a threat to public safety.

“What pisses me off about Oz is that I don’t think he’s really Pennsylvanian,” said Michael Leiter, who lives in Mifflin County in the central part of the state. , he plans to vote for Dr. Oz.

Lyter, 66, a retired drug and alcohol counselor, said: He promotes crime too. “

He was not satisfied with Mr. Fetterman’s dress code. “Do you know what he looks like to me?” said Mr. Reiter. “He’s like a heroin addict. They’re the only ones who wear hoodies in the summer.”

It was rare to find someone in an interview who recently voted Republican and now supports Mr. Fetterman. And it was equally rare for recent Democratic voters to lean towards Dr. Oz.

The interview was anecdotal, but polls show Fetterman’s dominance among a large cohort of Red County voters: white, working-class women. fox news Investigation Last month showed him beating a white woman who didn’t have a college degree by 8 percent. There was also a gender gap in yawning. White men without college degrees preferred Dr. Oz by 15 points.

One of the few party switchers was security guard Paul Amarong, who left Latrobe’s farmers’ market with a bag of zucchini.

“To tell you the truth, I was a Republican all the way through January 6, and then I turned Democrat,” Amarong said.

Amarong, 74, a former truck driver, said Fetterman voted largely because he believes the Republican Party has become the party of the riot. “When I was a Republican, I didn’t vote straight Republican,” he said. Just punch straight Democrats.”

Latrobe, in central Westmoreland County, is a brewing and manufacturing city first banana split Founded in 1904. Its population has been steadily declining since the 1970s. In Fetterman’s announcement video, “the best times were a generation before him,” he in the community may have served as one.

“Downtown Latrobe, it was a wall of people,” recalled Carol Ziak, 69, while shopping at a farmers market. Dziak’s husband worked at the brewery that previously produced Rolling Rock Beer, where she worked for 45 years. For a while, the couple owned Hallmark Cards her shop, but customers abandoned it and moved to shopping her mall outlets.

“I’m a Democrat, but I don’t vote Democrat,” Giac said. She didn’t like seeing Mr. Fetterman in a TV ad saying he was vulnerable to crime. “I think that’s my number one priority, like getting inmates out of prison,” she said.

House outside Latrobe, 2016 Trump’s towering cutout is painted to look like the American flag Hundreds of people posed for selfies. Leslie Rossi, who now owns the building that has come to be known as the “Trump House,” is Latrobe’s Republican state representative. She said Fetterman had no chance of hosting a lapsed Democrat in the county.

“Voters who are currently voting in the red have no plans to go back to the party they feel has let them down,” Rossi said.

Fetterman’s campaign leader, Brendan McPhillips, said he expects Fetterman to win a higher percentage of votes in red counties than Biden did two years ago.

McPhillips, who ran Biden’s 2020 campaign in Pennsylvania, said there’s “genuine enthusiasm for John in these red counties in a way I’ve never seen before.” . “People see John at Costco and Aldi. He’s a real person and he’s one of them. Even though they might disagree with him on everything.”

Jayanna Shiley, a 28-year-old college student studying criminal justice who lives with her parents in Frenchville, Pennsylvania, defended Fetterman’s approach. She said the prison system confines too many people who “won’t reoffend.” “Something got out of hand in the ’80s. American taxpayers had to distribute their hard-earned cash to pay for a man or woman to be in prison for the rest of their lives. ”

The daughter of a coal miner, Shirley said she has roots in rural central Pennsylvania and is proud of her political independence. “Yeah, I guess I’m a redneck, but I’m neither a Democrat nor a Republican,” she said.

She was not very enthusiastic about either Senate candidate, but said she would vote for Mr. Fetterman.

She wants to be a state game superintendent.

“Unless Fetterman says, ‘I’m going to your house and I’ll bring you a .30-06 so you can’t hunt white-tailed deer,’ I’m going to vote for him,” she said.

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