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Ahead of Possible Senate Bid, McCormick Blames SVB Crisis on Biden Fiscal Policy

Former Bridgewater CEO and possible 2024 U.S. Senate hopeful Dave McCormick slammed what he said was a “decade” of bad monetary and fiscal policy from government leaders that led to recent bank meltdowns.

McCormick made the claim during a DVJournal podcast interview regarding the historic collapse of Silicon Valley Bank (SVB) and the federal government’s scrambling efforts to contain the fallout.

Acknowledging that “anybody that’s predicting too much” about the crisis “probably is too confident” about the “dynamic situation,” McCormick—who is widely viewed as a likely Senate challenger to incumbent Democrat Sen. Bob Casey next year—argued there are “a set of root causes” that led to SVB’s collapse.

“We’ve had a decade or more of misguided fiscal policy and misguided monetary policy,” McCormick said. “We’ve had fiscal policy that has been enormous spending, and that spending has accelerated dramatically under Joe Biden.

“Discretionary spending has gone up by about 40 percent,” he continued. “You’ve had the three big pieces of legislation, which have added something like $18 trillion of new spending over the next 10 years, and that’s a huge driver of inflation.”

McCormick further argued that “very low interest rates” have driven financiers to adjust their spending and investment practices accordingly, driving them to “lock in long-duration treasuries and things like that in search of yield.

“And when the Fed raised rates to essentially offset the inflation that they helped create, that created a crisis at SVB because those treasuries that they held in their balance sheet went down in value,” he said. “They had to sell capital to try to close the hole, and that spooked their depositors and their depositors started to take out money.”

McCormick called the present chaos “the tip of the iceberg in terms of the problem,” one that “[won’t] go away until we get our fiscal house in order and back to our normal monetary policy.”

McCormick, who is promoting his new book “Superpower In Peril,” is increasingly being viewed as a favorite for the 2024 Senate race, with many analysts and strategists balking at the prospect of another bid by state Sen. Doug Mastriano, who lost his gubernatorial bid against Gov. Josh Shapiro last year.

However, a Public Policy Polling survey this week showed Mastriano with a sizeable lead ahead of McCormick in a potential 2024 GOP primary matchup.

Mastriano Reportedly Eyes Run for U.S. Senate

If God wants state Sen. Doug Mastriano to run for U.S. Senate, He hasn’t told the leadership of the Republican party.

Last week, Politico reported Mastriano — crushed by nearly 15 points in last year’s governor’s race against then-Attorney General Josh Shapiro – is considering a challenge to Democrat Bob Casey in 2024. He’s “praying” about it, Mastriano told the magazine. After God, his wife, Rebbie, will have the final word he said.

But National Republican Senate Committee Chair Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.), who is in charge of the group’s candidate recruitment, already has a word or two on the subject: No way.

“We need somebody who can win a primary and a general election. His last race demonstrated he couldn’t win a general,” Daines tweeted.

He is not alone. “Mastriano running for any statewide office would be another big gift to Pennsylvania Democrats,” said Christopher Nicholas with Eagle Consulting Group.

Mastriano ran as a solidly MAGA candidate with hardline views on social issues like abortion in the relatively purple state of Pennsylvania. He lost the money race, raising just $7 million compared to Shapiro’s $73 million.

Pennsylvania Republicans told DVJournal they were not interested in a repeat performance.

Republican insiders are already looking to former hedge fund CEO Dave McCormick in 2024.

“I think [Mastriano] has little to no chance of defeating David McCormick in a primary,” said Jeff Jubelirer with Bellevue Communications. “McCormick came within a whisker of defeating Dr. Oz in the GOP U.S. Senate primary in 2022, and many observers believed he would have fared better, and perhaps even beat, John Fetterman in the general election.

Charlie Gerow, CEO of Quantum Communications who also ran in the GOP gubernatorial primary, said Mastriano would have to give up his state Senate seat or run for both offices at once.

“I think his constituents would not be happy with that,” said Gerow. “A lot of people are talking about running for the U.S. Senate. He took a lot of time away (from his state Senate job) to run for governor.”

And, Republicans say, defeating an incumbent like Casey won’t be easy.

“Perhaps if Donald Trump injects himself again in the Senate race, it could benefit Mastriano a little [in the primary], but it didn’t help him make a dent when he ran against Josh Shapiro for governor,” Jubelirer said.

“I think the Republicans would prefer a stronger candidate, especially after taking it on the chin statewide in 2022.”

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TOOMEY: Farewell To The Senate (Part One)

Editor’s note: These are the farewell remarks to the Senate from Sen. Pat Toomey (Pa.-R), who is retiring from the U.S. Senate after serving for 12 years.  

Madam President, I rise for the customary farewell address. I would like to begin by thanking our colleague and our leader, Mitch McConnell, for his very, very kind words. I appreciate that, Leader McConnell. I would also like to say that I appreciate the confidence you have repeatedly placed in me. Your recollections have brought back many memories.

One was the (deficit reduction) super-committee. I served on the super-committee, but what most of you probably don’t know is that Leader McConnell had great reservations about putting me on the super-committee. Oh, yes, he grilled me for what seemed like hours over several occasions.

Here is why: He grilled me because he wanted an outcome. And his concern was, will this be firebrand from the Club for Growth be willing to compromise, be willing to reach an agreement that couldn’t possibly be exactly what he wanted?

What was most important—as I recall from our conversations—to Leader McConnell was that the people on that supercommittee, at least the ones that he could appoint, be interested in a successful outcome?

I would suggest that one of the things that is underappreciated about Leader McConnell is how relentlessly focused he is on outcomes. It is hard to know because he doesn’t tell us that much about what he is thinking, if you haven’t noticed, but I am pretty sure that that is a big driver.

So, Leader McConnell, I appreciate your leadership. I appreciate the confidence you placed in me. I appreciate our friendship and terrific working relationship.

For the many thanks that I have to give, I will start with my family. Starting with my parents, they did a great job raising six kids, I will tell you that much. I have to really stress my gratitudefor my wife Kris. Most of you probably don’t know, but Kris had a very successful and promising career as a consultant, which she put aside so that I could pursue mine. So, in many ways, I think she had a tougher job because she was home raising three kids. And she has done a phenomenal job of that.

Last month, we celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary, and I think I will spend the next 25 years letting her know how much I appreciate her. Our kids are here. Bridget is 22; Patrick is 21; and Duncan is 121⁄2.

You know, growing up in a political family has its disadvantages. You would be surprised to learn, but it seems like about every 6 years or so people ran some really nasty ads about me on television. They did. The kids see ads, obviously. Also, I missed more of their activities than I would have liked to because I had to be here, but they were always terrifically understanding about that. I am sure looking forward to spending more time with each of them.

For those of us who serve on this body, we all know that staffs are the unsung heroes of our successes. I have been luckier than anybody deserves to be with the teams that I have had working for me over the years—18 years in public office over a 24-year pe- riod; 6 in the House and 12 in the Senate. I have just had wonderful, wonderful folks—mostly younger people, as weknow our staffs tend to be, but just terrifically capable, hard-working, bright people.

My State staff, for instance—Leader McConnell was kind enough to point out—the reputation that we had. I don’t deserve the credit for that. They are the ones who worked so hard on behalf of our constituents.

From Philly to Erie and the other 65 counties and enumerable little boroughs and townships, every day they approached constituent service with enthusiasm and professionalism that was amazing. I mean, little boroughs requesting federal grants and businesses struggling with federal bureaucracies and regulations, veterans stymied by the VA or the Social Security Administration—it didn’t matter what it was, my staff was on the ball getting the job done and doing it with a great attitude.

My personal office here in DC, both when I was in the House and in the Senate, also are just terrific, terrific people.

You know, I represent a very big state that is relatively close to DC so we have a huge number of constituents who want to come down and make their case, as they should. Most of those meetings end up getting taken by our staff, as you know. They have just done such a great job.

Our leg and comms shops are always working so hard to get the policy exactly right and get our message right; the administrative staff that kept things running smoothly so I never had to worry about anything.

I have to say a special thanks to the Banking Committee staff. I have been on the Banking Committee since I got here, but only the last 2 years have I been the ranking member on the committee. I honestly think we accomplished about as much as you can when you are in the minority, and so much of it is because it is a great team.

We focused on all the areas of jurisdiction of the committee: financial services, monetary policy, housing, transit. We did a lot of important work on the nominees to important regulatory posts. I think we did a good job of providing the oversight of powerful regulators, including encouraging them to stay in their lanes. I will always be grateful to them.

By the way, many of them are still here, and they will be here to the bitter end. We are still processing requests for the omni.

I have got to say a big thanks to the campaign teams that I have had over the years. You know, my first House primary was a very improbable success.

I know most of you are thinking any election that I won was an improbable success. I get that. But I can tell you for sure, it wouldn’t have happened without a terrifically talented and dedicated campaign staff, some of whom became part of the official staff, others have chosen to stay on the political side.

As for all of you guys, my colleagues, I have teamed up with every Republican at some point over the years, and most of my Democratic colleagues also at one time or another, and it has been a real honor and it has been a privilege to work with each of you. You folks have been terrific allies, even when it is on an item that is a rare item of agreement.

Speaking of which, let me say a word about my colleague Bob Casey. You know, I don’t think you could ask for a more collegial, thoughtful colleague than the fellow that shares the senatorial responsibilities with me for Pennsylvania. The fact is, we canceled each other’s vote out almost every time—that is a true fact—but we have also worked together when we could.

One of the areas where we had just tremendous success is filling vacancies on the federal bench in Pennsylvania.

In fact, Senator Casey, and according to the last count that I have, you and I working together these last 12 years got 33 federal judges confirmed to the bench in Pennsylvania.

Now, that happens because we have great staff work happening; we have volunteers who do a wonderful job of vetting candidates across our commonwealth; but it also happens because Bob and I wanted to get this job done so that the people of Pennsylvania could have justice. And I think that only two—only New York and California have had more judges confirmed in this time.

So, Senator Casey, I appreciate the great working relationship we have had.

PA Senators Split on Vote to Derail Strike

A day after the U.S. House of Representatives acted to scotch a railroad workers’ strike, the Senate followed suit Thursday with an 80-15 vote of its own.

While several unions had approved a deal worked out by the Biden administration and the union leaders in September, a handful balked and threatened a strike. That could have crippled the U.S. economy just before Christmas.

On Monday, President Joe Biden called on Congress to act.

However, the Senate rejected an accompanying bill from the House that would have allowed seven days of paid sick leave for unionized workers.

Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) was one of several Republicans who voted for the sick leave provision, then joined five members of the Democratic caucus — Sens. Bernie Sanders (Vt.), an independent, as well as John Hickenlooper (Colo.), Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.), Elizabeth Warren (Mass.) and Ed Markey (Mass.) — in voting no to the strike measure.

“In an effort to prevent a strike, I voted to extend deliberations. Congress should not dictate terms nor intervene in these private negotiations,” Toomey said afterward. “In fact, it would be my preference that Congress would not play any role here.”

Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) expressed his view on Twitter. “The tentative agreement brokered by President Biden and Secretary Walsh makes meaningful improvements in the lives of railway workers. It’s a good start, but it’s not enough.” Casey urged the Senate to insert the additional paid sick leave benefits.

Under the agreement wages will rise 24 percent by 2024, including an immediate 14 percent pay increase, giving rail workers an average salary of $110,000 a year.

Rail industry officials were pleased and relieved.

“The Senate acted with leadership and urgency with today’s vote to avert an economically devastating rail work stoppage,” said American Association of Railway President and CEO Ian Jefferies. “As we close out this long, challenging process, none of the parties achieved everything they advocated for. The product of these agreements is a compromise by nature, but the result is one of substantial gains for rail employees. More broadly, all rail stakeholders and the economy writ large now have certainty about the path forward.

“Let’s be clear railroading is tough, essential work that keeps our nation moving, and our employees deserve our gratitude for moving America’s freight and doing so safely every day. The gains in this agreement are significant, including historic wage increases, best-in-class healthcare, and meaningful progress in creating more predictable, scheduled work shifts. Without a doubt, there is more to be done to further address our employees’ work-life balance concerns, but it is clear this agreement maintains rail’s place among the best jobs in our nation.”

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Strategists See ‘Stranger Things’ Scenario in Fight for U.S. Senate

In April, Republican control of the U.S. Senate looked like a lock. In August, all GOP hope appeared lost.

In the past few weeks, however, polls — and the news cycle — have been trending the Republicans’ way. Seven Senate seats are in play according to the RealClearPolitics polling averages: Arizona, Georgia, New Hampshire, Nevada, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.

Other prognosticators predict fewer states will come down to the wire, as Republicans defend 21 Senate seats and Democrats defend 14 in November. But Republican Party strategist Ford O’Connell says pundits and the press are making the same mistake they have made every two years for a decade now.

Trusting the polls.

“The media’s reliance on GOP suppression polls is nothing new and 2022 is no different,” O’Connell told Inside Sources. “Generally speaking, Republican candidates are underperforming in the polls. That said, if Republicans at the top of the ticket continue to hammer home in unison the rising cost of living, crime, and the need to secure the border, the party will be victorious in November.”

A 2021 investigation by the American Association for Public Opinion Research found polls at both the national and statewide level in 2020 missed races by the biggest margins in decades, and always in the Democrats’ favor. If polling is off by the same margin as two years ago, Republicans are competitive, or better, in all seven of these races.

Events are working in the GOP’s favor, too, said Tim Jones, a former Republican speaker of Missouri’s House of Representatives, now a talk radio host who monitors the national scene. The economy is not likely to improve before the election and the Democrats seem overly reliant on the abortion issue after the Dobbs decision in the U.S. Supreme Court.

“Democrats have stopped talking about COVID. They are not talking about January 6 anymore. They are only talking about abortion,” Jones told Inside Politics shortly after his plane arrived at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport on Tuesday. “Republicans could be undercounted or maybe just don’t want to be counted.”

Jones suspects the Dobbs decision might have come too early for Democrats.

“When the decision came in June, Democrats predicted the world would end and it would be Handmaiden’s Tale,” Jones said. “Now people are starting to figure out it just means that red states are probably going to have stricter abortion laws and blue states are going to have looser abortion laws.”

And then there is the ‘Stranger Things’ factor, said J. Miles Coleman of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia. Every election cycle has at least one “Who’da thunk it?” outcome. For 2020, it was Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, surviving; in 2018, it was Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., being booted from office in a national Democrat year, Coleman said.

One potential Senate race surprise could be in Colorado, where Democrat Sen. Michael Bennett is fending off GOP challenger Joe O’Dea.

“Some Republicans think they’ve got a decent shot in Colorado,” Coleman told InsideSources. “We think Michael Bennett is likely to win, but not safe. The GOP nominee there has tried to frame himself as a Republican version of Joe Manchin. Michael Bennett is not as much of a brand in Colorado.”

The UVA Center for Politics’ Crystal Ball ranks Georgia and Nevada as the outright tossups in November. It scores North Carolina, Wisconsin, and Ohio as leaning Republican while Arizona, New Hampshire, and Pennsylvania are leaning Democrat.

“Leaning” counts as less than “likely,” on the rating scale.

The Cook Political Report rates four Senate races as tossups: Arizona, Georgia, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. Cook, meanwhile, counts Arizona, Colorado, and New Hampshire as leaning Democrat, while putting Florida, North Carolina, and Ohio in the leaning Republican category.

Of the major prognosticators, FiveThirtyEight takes the dimmest view of GOP chances, giving Democrats a two-thirds chance of maintaining control of the Senate based on its statistical modeling.

Among the most closely watched races in Pennsylvania, for the seat of retiring Republican Sen. Pat Toomey, which presents a pickup opportunity for Democrats.

“If the Republicans win in Pennsylvania, it is all but guaranteed that they will win control of the Senate,” O’Connell said. “There are a number of permutations and combinations that could give Republicans the gavel in the upper chamber without Pennsylvania, but a win in the Keystone State affords them the best opportunity for control.”

Dr. Mehmet Oz, the Republican nominee there, has closed the gap with Democrat Lt. Gov. John Fetterman. But Coleman believes the race is still Fetterman’s to lose.

“Oz’s unfavorables are terrible,” Coleman said. “Fetterman’s unfavorables have gone up, but Oz’s unfavorables are about 50 percent. That’s hard to overcome.”

Of the seven races, New Hampshire is widely viewed as the least likely to flip to the Republicans. Even GOP Gov. Chris Sununu’s expected double-digit victory would not be enough to lift Republican challenger Don Bolduc over incumbent Democrat Sen. Maggie Hassan, Coleman said.

“Sununu will likely win, but New Hampshire voters like to split their tickets,” Coleman said. “The Senate Leadership Fund is still spending money there. So, Republicans are not giving up.”

Jones is not so sure. As a former state legislative leader, he sees the popularity of Republican governors as a significant force in these elections. For example, a strong victory by Georgia Republican Gov. Brian Kemp over Democrat challenger Stacey Abrams could be enough to lift embattled Senate nominee Herschel Walker to victory over Democrat Sen. Raphael Warnock.

“Gov. Kemp has been up by as much as 8 points. I can’t imagine a world where voters are voting for Kemp and Warnock,” Jones said.

As inflation continues to hit voters in their pocketbooks and President Joe Biden struggles in the polls, some Republicans see the potential of a red wave that could even reach the very blue states of Vermont and Washington, where GOP candidates are in striking distance in polls. But O’Connell is doubtful.

“Stranger things have happened, but for the GOP to pick up Senate seats in Vermont and Washington, the floodgates would really have to open up,” O’Connell said. “I’m not saying those races don’t merit our attention, but the most important races with less than 30 days to go are—Georgia, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Arizona.

“In recent weeks the Democrats have backtracked on the map and poured more resources into both Senate and House races that they weren’t as focused on over the summer. That’s a good sign for Republicans.”

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Fetterman Gets Fundraising Help from Sanders, Biden

Despite supporting each other previously, Democratic U.S. Senate candidate John Fetterman has not been much of a Bernie Bro in 2022.

But with Republican Dr. Mehmet Oz closing in the polls, the Fetterman campaign is pulling out all the stops. A new Trafalgar Group poll has Fetterman at 47.2 and Oz at 44.8. Libertarian Erik Gerhardt was at 3.4 percent.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) sent out fundraising text messages on Friday asking people to send Fetterman $10 because Fetterman will “stand up to corporate greed and bigotry.”

Sanders, an avowed socialist who honeymooned in the Soviet Union, said in the text Fetterman “will transform this country and the lives of the working class.”

Fetterman endorsed Sanders when he ran for president in 2016, but did not in 2020. And Sanders had boosted Fetterman’s unsuccessful campaign for the U.S. Senate and his successful run for lieutenant governor.

When asked about being a progressive in the primary, Fetterman, said that he was “just a Democrat.”

But Fetterman has also been endorsed by progressive luminary Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.).

Now Fetterman is bringing in President Joe Biden to a fundraiser on Oct. 20. This even though Biden himself is increasingly unpopular with rising inflation, a war in Ukraine, the withdrawal from Afghanistan, and rising crime rates dogging him. A recent Reuters/Ipsos poll showed 55 percent of Americans disapprove of Biden’s performance.

When asked about Fetterman bringing in both Sanders and Biden, Jeff Jubelirer, vice president of Bellevue Communications Group, said, “I’d say that it’s more ‘all hands on deck’ raising money and generating enthusiasm among the different constituencies of the Democratic electorate (the progressive wing – Sanders; and the more traditional/moderate wing – Biden) ahead of the election.

“As Election Day gets closer, I’m confident we will see the candidates doing all they can to ensure they turn out their biggest supporters, which are their party loyalists,” said Jubelirer.

The Fetterman campaign did not respond to a request for comment.

“John Fetterman is falling behind so he’s resorting to desperate lies and cheap distractions. Unlike no-show Fetterman, Dr. Oz is talking to voters – Republicans, Democrats, and Independents – who want to see a change from the failed policies of the past. Dr. Oz is running against the most pro-murderer candidate, and we are going to win in November because Pennsylvanians can’t afford a Bernie Sanders socialist that wants to release 1/3 of Pennsylvania inmates, decriminalize all drugs, and eliminate life sentences for murderers. John Fetterman has already failed to serve the voters of Pennsylvania twice – why would they give him a third chance?” asked Brittany Yanick, communications director for Dr. Oz for Senate.

Fetterman gave a brief, 15-minute speech to an enthusiastic crowd in Bucks County last weekend. He acknowledged that he had a stroke in April and is “so grateful to be here today.”

He promised to support the Pro Act that would make it easier to unionize, to expand healthcare, to vote to legalize abortion nationwide, support veterans, raise the minimum wage, and to do away with the Senate filibuster. While he did not mention his more controversial positions concerning legalizing marijuana, he said he is running on his record of fighting crime as a mayor of a small town in western Pennsylvania.

Braddock “we went more than five years without a murder,” Fetterman said. He also did not mention his votes as chairman of the state Board of Pardons to free convicted murderers.

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Fetterman Agrees to Oct. 25 Debate

After weeks of debate and recriminations, Democrat Lt. Gov. John Fetterman has agreed to debate his GOP opponent in the U.S. Senate race, Dr. Mehmet Oz, on Oct. 25.

Both sides took the opportunity to slam each other in dueling press releases.

The debate, hosted by Nexstar television, was among the seven Oz had already committed to. His campaign noted that Fetterman’s only debate commitment is for a face-off that doesn’t take place until weeks after voters have begun casting mail-in and absentee ballots.

Fetterman was off the campaign trail for months after suffering a stroke and only began campaigning again in late August. He has had some stroke-related difficulties with speech due to what he calls “auditory processing.”

In a press release on Wednesday, the Fetterman campaign said the debate will be televised in all 67 Pennsylvania counties.

“We said from the start that we’d do a debate, which John reiterated very clearly again last week. Enough distractions, it’s time to talk about the issues,” said Rebecca Katz, senior advisor to the Fetterman campaign. “While John will be debating Dr. Oz next month, Oz doesn’t have to wait that long to be honest with Pennsylvania voters about where he really stands on abortion. It’s a simple question, doctor: Would you vote for the Republicans’ national abortion ban, or would you vote against it?”

The Oz campaign, in turn, released this statement: “According to Nexstar, the Fetterman campaign asked for closed captioning during the debate – for the moderators and for Doctor Oz. They also asked for two practice sessions in the studio in Harrisburg ahead of time so Fetterman could be comfortable utilizing the closed caption system. All of the other debate rules are traditional and fine with us.”

According to its release, the Oz campaign asked for three things: “That at the top of the debate – a moderator explain to the audience that Fetterman is using a closed captioning system during the debate, to explain any delay between him being asked a question and responding.

“That the questions asked by any Nexstar employee during the ‘practice’ sessions for Fetterman bear zero resemblance to the actual questions asked during the debate. We are totally fine with Fetterman practicing with the closed caption system, but not with Fetterman practicing his answers ahead of time in conjunction with the moderators. The details of how this would be enforced are still being worked out.

And, “that the debate be extended from 60 to 90 minutes – because John will be on a delay, we believe that it would be unfair to viewers interested in the candidates’ positions to waste airtime while closed captioners type questions and answers.

“If those three reasonable requests are acceptable to the Fetterman campaign, then we accept the debate invitation on October 25th,” the Oz campaign said.

“Doctor Oz has accepted seven different debates throughout September and October,” said Casey Contres, Oz campaign manager. “Today, after being hit with massive criticism from state and national editorials and commentators for ducking, John Fetterman finally agreed to one debate…that was originally scheduled for October 5th. It’s a debate that Fetterman insisted be delayed until only two weeks remain in the campaign, to keep voters in the dark as long as possible.

“And it’s a debate in which Fetterman insisted on accommodations for his health condition, accommodations that are not permitted on the U.S. Senate floor. Doctor Oz looks forward to being in Harrisburg on October 25th to share his vision for a better Pennsylvania and America, and he is ready expose Fetterman’s record as the most radical, far-left senate candidate in America.

“Voters need to hear about John Fetterman’s radical record of supporting parole for violent murderers and not paying his taxes 67 times,” Contres said.

The debate will be shown in the Delaware Valley on WPHL Channel 17.

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FLOWERS: Telling the Truth About Fetterman’s Health Isn’t A Partisan Attack

Before he became president, John F. Kennedy was a U.S. senator from Massachusetts, serving despite his debilitating chronic back pain and suffering from Addison’s disease. JFK still got the job done, well enough to become president of the United States.

And to paraphrase the late Texas Sen. Lloyd Benson, “Lt. Gov. Fetterman, you’re no JFK.”

A politician can serve despite struggling with health conditions. Ronald Reagan was called The Great Communicator, and yet by most credible accounts, he was already in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease by the end of his second term. Franklin Roosevelt’s polio, while not a complete secret from the public, was cleverly hidden from view during his dozen years in office with the tacit complicity of the news media who rarely photographed or filmed him sitting in a wheelchair.

John Fetterman differs from them in some important ways. The most important is this: FDR, JFK, and Reagan were all elected while still in good health (at least as far as the public knew). The former mayor of Braddock is asking voters to give him their trust despite an illness that he acknowledges is impacting his mental acuity, an illness we, the people, can see impacting him right now.

It’s not a political attack or personal criticism to acknowledge a fact: Democrats have nominated a man to hold one of our two U.S. Senate seats who barely survived a near-death experience less than five months ago.

I find the attempts of his campaign and supporters to cover for his health unforgivable for several reasons.

First, and most importantly, voters deserve a full explanation of his current medical condition, not the rosy press releases regurgitated about how he’s “improving.” I’ll readily admit I’m not a doctor and I won’t play one on TV (or the interwebs). But you don’t need to be Dr. House — or even Dr. Phil — to wince as Fetterman fumbles for his words, appearing detached and disconnected, looking confused when asked questions and moving more slowly than the average man his age.

One of my friends, a nurse with decades in rehabilitative care, told me that while she obviously hadn’t examined Fetterman and doesn’t know the specifics of his stroke, “In general, I know that once someone has a stroke, the risk of having a second significantly increases.”

How will this impact Fetterman’s ability to represent Pennsylvania? To represent us? Fetterman attacks his opponent for being “from NJ;” but if given the choice, I think most of us would prefer a healthy Jersey boy to an impaired native son.

Another issue is the callousness of Fetterman’s team. They (and he) seem to be so focused on winning that they’re putting political ambitions ahead of his family obligations as a husband and a father to young children.

He’s ill. It’s obvious. And it’s inconceivable to me that the people who are supposed to care about him would allow him to push forward under those conditions.

As I wrote on Facebook, “I can’t stand the man and I have compassion. No one on the left will believe this, but it’s not purely about politics. Put in Conor Lamb, he could be a formidable Oz opponent. This is about simple human decency. The man is sick. Is the left selling its soul for a Senate win? Is that what matters? They could still win honorably, with a healthy candidate.”

Despite what some on the left are saying, it is not below the belt to question Fetterman’s health. It is legitimate. It is also compassionate. The physical and mental abilities of Pennsylvania’s junior senator must be at the highest levels.

We deserve competence. John Fetterman deserves attention. I’m glad that, slowly, people are coming to that realization.

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Fetterman and Oz Sparring Already

With the U.S. Senate primary barely in the rearview mirror, Democratic candidate John Fetterman, Republican Dr. Mehmet Oz, and their allies are fielding ads attacking each other.

Fetterman’s campaign sent fundraising emails claiming Oz is still registered to vote in New Jersey.

“I was born + raised here, and now Gisele + I are raising our family here, right across the street from Andrew Carnegie’s first steel mill,” Fetterman says in that email.

A senior Oz campaign official said that Oz, a Huntingdon Valley resident, votes in Pennsylvania and is registered to vote here.

Meanwhile, the National Republican Senatorial Committee launched an ad attacking Fetterman this week, spending $1.5 million to air it until June 16. The ominous-sounding ad paints Fetterman as a socialist who is endorsed by Sen. Bernie Sanders.



It shows “left-wing radicals rolling into Pennsylvania” with signs reading “government healthcare” and “end fracking” exiting a Fetterman van. The voiceover says Fetterman would cost residents “$50,000 per year.”

And, although Fetterman is recuperating from a stroke and not on the campaign trail at the moment, his campaign has its own ads up, one touting him as an outsider who gets things done titled “Braddock to Washington D.C.” and another that cites his outsider cred.

Oz is already a household name, so he needs little introduction to voters.

“Since being elected lieutenant governor, John Fetterman has spent a good deal of his time working to boost his name ID, through his legalization of marijuana tour and media appearances.  It’s been clear since he was sworn in as lieutenant governor his goal was a higher office. The question is whether it was enough.  The types of ads he is running lead me to believe his campaign doesn’t think so, which is why he is focused on defining himself at the current time,” said Charlie O’Neill, a Republican consultant.

Christopher Borick, professor of political science and director of the Muhlenberg College Institute of Public Opinion, said, “Indeed, the general election campaigns are off and running.  In a world where major campaigns are flush with financial resources, the rule is to get your ads up early and establish identities for both you and your opponent.

“Republicans clearly want Pennsylvania voters to see Fetterman more as a socialist and less as the Carhartt wearing advocate for the working class.  They recognize that by doing so they may weaken Fetterman’s appeal among older, more moderate voters in places like the Philly suburbs, and negate some of his potential gains among White working-class voters where his brand has appeal.”

Borick added, “And while many Pennsylvanians know Fetterman through his unique physical image and presentation, the details of his story are not known to many voters in the commonwealth.  Thus, his campaign wants to get that narrative built before Oz and Republicans can build an alternative for many voters that will be harder to undo.”


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FLOWERS: Leaked SCOTUS Decision Moves Abortion Debate From Courts to Voters

I’m aware that not everyone is as concerned with abortion as I am. In fact, abortion falls fairly low on the list of “important issues” when voters are in the process of considering candidates. Only people like me, who are profoundly pro-life, or those who are extreme in their support of abortion rights, focus on it.  In that ironic and bizarre way, I have more in common with the head of Planned Parenthood than the vast majority of Americans have with either of us.

But what happened Monday evening was seismic, and its impact is felt by everyone, including those who are more concerned with when or whether Joel Embiid is reactivated to play against the Miami Heat.

If Roe v. Wade is overturned, as seems likely based on the leak of Justice Alito’s draft majority opinion, abortion will not disappear.  It will simply cease to be a federal right, left to the states to legislate and regulate.  That’s the way it was until 1973, and even though I think it should be completely banned (exception: to save the mother’s life), that’s the way it should be in a democracy.  Most Americans are comfortable with some limits on abortion, and if they live in a state that has those limits and they still want to end their pregnancy, they can travel to a more hospitable jurisdiction.

But after almost 50 years of legalized abortion, some people have gotten the idea that it’s a constitutional, unassailable right. They talk about “super precedents,” and “right to choose,” and “reproductive justice,” and all of these empty phrases that sound nice in campaign ads but that really add up to this: We want what we have gotten used to, unlimited autonomy when it comes to pregnancy.

And that’s where it gets interesting. If Roe falls and the states take control of abortion, the people who make the laws in those states will have an enormous amount of power. And in Pennsylvania, we have two crucial elections looming, which will determine whether our next governor is likely to sign or veto pro-life legislation and whether our next senator will vote to codify abortion rights in federal law.

At the outset, I don’t expect most Pennsylvanians agree with me that abortion should be criminalized except in cases where the life of the mother is in danger. You don’t have to tell me that my view is to the right of many Republicans and even a lot of run-of-the-mill conservatives. I can’t even get an “amen” from most of my Catholic friends, not to mention some high-profile priests like Jesuit James Martin. But at the very least, most Americans think there should be some significant limits on the procedure, depending upon the circumstances of the pregnancy.

When I helped moderate a debate of Republican senatorial candidates for the Delaware Valley Journal last month, I asked the four local candidates, Kathy Barnette, Jeff Bartos, George Bocchetto, and Sean Gale, what their views were on abortion. Gale was the most overtly passionate stating, “It’s truly a stain on this country, which is why I’ll be the most pro-life senator in the U.S. Senate.” Barnette mentioned her own origins story, revealing that she was a child of rape, and noted, “Based on my experience, I truly believe that life begins at conception, and I will make sure to fight for that when I’m in the Senate.” Bartos took aim at the Democrats currently in Congress observing, “When you have 47 Democrats who voted for legislation on late-term abortion, they will have to answer many questions come election time this November.” And George Bocchetto, who grew up in an orphanage in New York stated that “I wouldn’t be here today if Roe v. Wade were law during my birth, which is why I’m forever grateful that I could survive and thrive the way I did.”

Those were personal answers, deeply felt, and fairly representative of the GOP position on abortion. Contrast that with the Democrat candidates for the Senate. When asked at a recent debate if there were any limits on abortion that he would find appropriate, John Fetterman replied, “I don’t believe so, no.”  He then doubled down, declaring that he wanted to codify Roe into statutory law to essentially frustrate the Supreme Court. Conor Lamb, Fetterman’s “moderate” opponent has gone on record saying, “I think that the right to choose is a right all the way through pregnancy.”

“All the way through pregnancy” is shorthand for late-term abortion. The comments were in response to a question about the Women’s Health Protection Act, and whether he would be able to support any restrictions on a woman’s right to choose. Apparently, he can’t.

As far as the gubernatorial race, every Republican candidate has come out as being pro-life, even if some like Charlie Gerow are more vocal than others. De facto Democratic candidate Josh Shapiro has made no secret that he strongly supports abortion, including late-term abortion.

It takes a lot to come out and say that a woman should be able to have an abortion whenever she wants.  There is something particularly ghoulish in a person who thinks that abortion is “okay” and should not be barred at any moment before the crowning of the baby’s head. And I find it particularly ironic that the type of woman who thinks men can’t have an opinion on abortion is perfectly happy with these men, and these opinions.

If your primary concern this election cycle is something other than abortion, I understand where you might actually spend the next few weeks and months examining the candidates’ platforms and positions. But what happened Monday night changed the whole landscape.

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