Side effects of Pennsylvania Democratic Senate candidate John Fetterman‘s recent stroke were apparent in the highly anticipated hour-long debate between Fetterman and his Republican opponent celebrity Dr. Mehmet Oz on Tuesday night.

Fetterman struggled throughout the debate to articulate his position on issues, causing and at some points awkward silences as he took his time to understand what was being said.

The Democrat addressed his health up front, explaining his use of closed captioning during the debate.

“I had a stroke. [Oz has] never let me forget that,” Fetterman said as the debate kicked off. “And I might miss some words during this debate, mush two words together, but it knocked me down and I’m going to keep coming back up.”


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Oz challenged Fetterman on his support of President Joe Biden and his stance on crime and immigration, refusing to go easy on him. At one point, he pointedly commented on Fetterman’s struggles.

“Obviously I wasn’t clear enough for you to understand this,” Oz said.

The race between Oz and Fetterman to replace retiring Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pennsylvania) is one of the most closely watched midterm races, with a chance to help break the 50-50 tie in the Senate.

As of Wednesday, Fetterman holds just a 1.3% lead over Oz, according to a Real Clear Politics poll tracker. Pennsylvania holds one of the Democrat’s best chances at flipping the Senate seat, as Biden won Pennsylvania over former President Donald Trump in 2020.

Fetterman’s camp reported, however, that in the hours following the debate, it raised more than $1 million, signaling a strong response from his Democratic supporters.

“They stepped up tonight with a gigantic show of support for John and his debate performance. We’re honored and grateful for the support heading into the last two weeks of the race,” Fetterman campaign manager Brendan McPhillips said following the spike in donations.

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