Battle for Bucks County: Oz and Fetterman converge on must-see Philly suburb

Battle for Bucks County: Oz and Fetterman converge on must-see Philly suburb

Bucks County, which stretches along the Delaware River north of Philadelphia and has a population of approximately 650,000, is Philadelphia’s fastest growing suburb. Former President Donald Trump came within 2,700 votes of winning the county in 2016 en route to a statewide victory. Four years later, President Joe Biden won by more than 17,000 votes.

The county has thousands of potential ticket dispatchers, a group that Oz urgently needs on Election Day. Republican gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano, who has struggled to raise funds and has been largely let down by national Republicans due to far-right ties, is set to lose to Shapiro.

The famed doctor-turned-GOP nominee was joined on Sunday by two politicians gifted with winning over ticket-distributors: Fitzpatrick, who represents Bucks County and part of neighboring Montgomery County and won re-election two years ago as Biden had also won his district by 6 points; and sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), who easily won re-election in 2020.

The suburban events of an otherwise quiet Sunday in Philadelphia — the undefeated Eagles played Thursday this week and the Phillies’ World Series ended Saturday night — came after a very busy day on the campaign trail Saturday: Fetterman walked through Pittsburgh and Philadelphia with former President Barack Obama, Biden also joining them for this final stop, while Oz rallied alongside Trump in the western Pennsylvania town of Latrobe that night.

Campaigning alongside Collins and Fitzpatrick at a roundtable with Bucks County business owners, Oz did not focus on the former president, however.

“I want to bring balance to Washington,” he said. “John Fetterman takes the extreme position again and again.”

The campaign event with Collins a day after Trump’s rally was notable in part because the Maine senator kept her distance from the former president. Collins did not publicly support Trump’s 2020 presidential campaign. She opposed him in 2016 and voted to convict him in his second impeachment trial.

Asked by a reporter afterward about the contrast between the two Oz events, Collins disagreed that it was a “mixed message” and said it showed that ‘Oz could work with people who had different points of view.

“And that’s what we need in Washington,” she said.

Public polls in the Senate contest — one of the most competitive and watched in the nation — had been shrinking for months following a surge in Republican advertising on the airwaves focused on inflation and the crime. Republicans were hoping to gain momentum after Fetterman’s faltering performance in the campaign’s single debate on Oct. 25 as he faced the aftermath of a stroke. The race has remained tight since then, making the impact of the debate uncertain.

The Senate Majority PAC cut a last-minute announcement this week highlighting Oprah Winfrey’s support for Fetterman, an endorsement her camp had courted after Oz rose to fame in part by appearing on her show.

But the remaining on-air advertising from Republicans and Democrats largely touches on the same broad messaging themes that have been present throughout the cycle. Oz and Republicans have criticized Fetterman on the issue of crime, his record on the state board of pardons and his past support for decriminalizing certain drugs, while seeking to tie him to an unpopular Biden.

Democrats hit out at Oz on the abortion issue, including highlighting a debate clip of him saying that “local political leaders” should have a say in abortion decisions. And they labeled him a wealthy, out-of-touch New Jerseyan.

Fetterman echoed those messages at Sunday’s rally in Newtown, repeating a line he commonly used on the campaign trail that Oz is running to ‘use’ Pennsylvania and that the state Senate seat “shouldn’t be for sale”.

More than one million Pennsylvania voters have already cast their ballots, with Democrats accounting for about 70% of those taking advantage of mail-in voting. But voting on Election Day is still likely to do more substantial impact in the state, where more than 5 million ballots were cast in the last midterm elections.

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, a key surrogate for the Democratic candidates, was also expected to rally in Philadelphia later Sunday as part of a get-out-the-vote effort targeting young voters.

Cristina Tzintzún Ramirez, president of NextGen America, a liberal organization focused on youth voter turnout that organized the Philadelphia rally, noted the potential for young voters to swing the races, especially with abortion rights as motivating factor.

“This election is probably going to come down to a few thousand votes,” she said. “And we want to make sure that young people are able to tip the scales.”

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