Big moment for Dr. Oz on Pennsylvania debate day vs. Fetterman: The Note

Battling from behind throughout the campaign, Oz has been hoping for contrasts.

October 25, 2022, 6:01 AM

The TAKE with Rick Klein

The date has long been circled on the midterm calendar because of the stakes in Pennsylvania and the health of the Democratic Senate candidate, John Fetterman, who agreed to one and only one debate while recovering from a stroke.

But a plausible case can be made that Tuesday night brings a bigger moment for the Republican candidate. Mehmet Oz is perhaps the most famous television doctor in the country -- and he'll be on TV along with the candidate whose health might determine control of the Senate.

That twist of fate couldn't be scripted any more than the debate itself could be. Battling from behind throughout the campaign, Oz has been hoping for unspoken health contrasts with Fetterman while calling for more transparency -- and even distancing himself from his own campaign's apparent mockery of Fetterman's health.

Oz has already said he wouldn't talk to a patient the way his campaign has occasionally talked about Fetterman. Aides have derisively offered to pay for medical assistance to be on-hand at debates and suggested at one point that he might not have had a stroke if he had "ever eaten a vegetable in his life."

Vegetables and what to call them when cut up for appetizers -- aka, crudités -- have been central to a campaign that's turned on questions of authenticity and relatability. In a pre-debate spin memo sent to reporters, Fetterman's campaign built up Oz's TV skills and also served notice that the Democrat wants to make Oz own what's been said about Fetterman's health in recent months.

"Oz will try to play the nice doctor on Tuesday night, but his campaign's attacks on John's health have consistently been mean-spirited and cruel," Fetterman's campaign predicted.

Pennsylvania voters and plugged-in followers of politics are well aware of Fetterman's post-stroke limitations. Any hesitations or syntax errors on stage will be evident even with the special accommodations designed to help him read and respond to questions and exchanges.

What voters have seen less of, oddly, is Oz as a doctor -- beyond the version he has long played on TV.

PHOTO: Mehmet Oz and John Fetterman are seen in composited file images.
Candidates Mehmet Oz and John Fetterman are seen in composited file images.
Getty Images, FILE

The RUNDOWN with Averi Harper

As a lawsuit creates uncertainty for President Joe Biden's pledge of student loan forgiveness, the White House won't promise additional actions like extending the payment moratorium.

ABC News' Senior White House Correspondent Mary Bruce asked White House officials on Monday how confident the administration is that their effort to forgive up to $20,000 per borrower will survive legal challenge.

"The president is going to do everything that he can to make sure that we get this done," said White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre. On the temporary block of the program issued by a federal judge, she added, "It's a temporary order, it doesn't suggest that [the lawsuit] has any merit."

In a response to that block, the Department of Justice argued that the six Republican-led states who sued have no standing in the matter.

"Plaintiffs will suffer no irreparable injury from the provision of much-needed relief to millions of Americans, but the public interest would be greatly harmed by its denial," reads the DOJ response.

During a midterm pep talk, of sorts, at the Democratic Party's headquarters in Washington on Monday, Biden told volunteers, "If we get people out to vote, we win."

There are many Democrats who hoped student debt relief would be a part of that winning economic message to help galvanize key voting blocs, like young voters and voters of color, for their candidates. Now, it's both unclear if forgiveness will come to fruition soon and if it will be a significant motivating factor for Democratic voters.

PHOTO: Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre speaks during a daily news briefing at the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room in the White House, Oct. 24, 2022.
Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre speaks during a daily news briefing at the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room in the White House, Oct. 24, 2022.
Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

The TIP with Alisa Wiersema

Incumbent Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis and former Democratic Rep. Charlie Crist faced off Monday night in Florida's only gubernatorial debate in hopes of wooing voters to give one of them a 2022 victory. But as the candidates wrangled over policies before a lively and responsive audience, the specter of the next election cycle loomed large.

The pair opened the debate by echoing national partisan themes: Crist expressed his support for abortion access, and DeSantis reiterated his opposition to COVID-19 pandemic-era restrictions.

DeSantis' focus on conservative culture issues -- which he defended throughout the debate -- has drawn the national political spotlight as a possible 2024 presidential hopeful. Although on stage he stood by his record as governor, he also faced repeated jabs from Crist that alleged he was more interested in pursuing higher political aspirations than the office he is currently seeking.

"Look in the eyes of the people of state of Florida and say to them if you're reelected, you will serve a full four-year term as governor," Crist charged.

DeSantis did not directly respond to his opponent's question, and the debate moderator punctuated the situation with a clarification that candidates were not supposed to ask one another questions.

"I know that Charlie is interested in talking about 2024 and Joe Biden, but I just want to make things very, very clear: The only worn-out old donkey I'm looking to put out to pasture is Charlie Crist," DeSantis said a moment later.

"You won't even say if you want to be the governor of Florida after this election," retorted Crist, who is 66.

Despite the pushback from across the aisle, according to FiveThirtyEight's election forecast, DeSantis is "clearly favored" to win reelection, with his chances currently standing to be 96 out of 100.

PHOTO: Florida's Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks during a debate with his Democratic opponent Charlie Crist in Fort Pierce, Fla., Oct. 24, 2022.
Florida's Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks during a debate with his Democratic opponent Charlie Crist in Fort Pierce, Fla., Oct. 24, 2022.
Crystal Vander Weit/AP
Power Trip
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Power Trip

"Power Trip: Those Seeking Power and Those Who Chase Them" follows 7 young reporters as they chase down candidates in the lead up to the midterms with George Stephanopoulos guiding them along the way.

THE PLAYLIST

ABC News' "Start Here" podcast. "Start Here" begins Tuesday morning with a look at the midterms ahead of a crucial Senate race debate in Pennsylvania. ABC's Will McDuffie leads us off. Then ABC's Matt Gutman discusses the backlash against Kanye West over antisemitic comments. And ABC's John Quiñones reports from Uvalde, Texas, with the story of a teacher who was falsely accused of leaving a door to Robb Elementary School open as the shooting began. http://apple.co/2HPocUL

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW TODAY

  • President Biden receives his COVID-19 vaccine booster at 2:05 p.m. ET at the White House and will also speak about the pandemic.
  • White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre briefs at 2:45 p.m. ET.

Download the ABC News app and select "The Note" as an item of interest to receive the day's sharpest political analysis.

The Note is a daily ABC News feature that highlights the day's top stories in politics. Please check back Wednesday for the latest.

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