How ‘Just a Dude’ in Shorts Became a Senate Front-Runner

Public polls in Pennsylvania have been sparse and there is theoretically still time to turn the Democratic race on its head. So far, however, there is little evidence that issues with his past or person have dampened enthusiasm for Mr. Fetterman among many Democratic primary voters.

He ran unsuccessfully for the Senate in 2016 but built a loyal following, and after defeating an incumbent to win his party’s nomination for lieutenant governor, he has been a visible nationwide presence in office. He had garnered national attention as mayor of Braddock, a struggling old steel town that he helped revitalize. But he garnered renewed attention as a cable TV set when Pennsylvania’s 2020 votes were counted.

His campaign had an overwhelming fundraising advantage, a lead in television advertising and an early entry into the race. Rep. Conor Lamb — the polished western Pennsylvania moderate who has become his closest rival — entered the race later and garnered notable institutional support, but has struggled to gain ground nationally or to effectively negatively define Mr. Fetterman.

As he made the rounds of The Holy Hound on Thursday night, attendees clamored for selfies and offered him fries or a beer – Mr. Fetterman, who often hosts campaign rallies at breweries and bars, ruefully declined. “Damn yes!” he replied to a young participant who asked for a photo. He thanked another supporter who had already voted to be “triple awesome.”

“I feel like I could have a beer with Fetterman and we’d get along really well,” said Robert Keebler, 45, a union activist in suburban Pittsburgh.

Mr. Fetterman is widely regarded as a progressive candidate who promotes issues such as raising the minimum wage, legalizing marijuana, and others eliminate the filibusterand fight for voting rights, abortion rights and protections for LGBTQ people.

“Some people will say, ‘The Democrats! The Culture Battles! What are you going to do?’ I say, ‘Bring it on!’” said Mr. Fetterman in York. “If you’re having fun or inspiring your constituents by bullying gay and transgender children, you know it’s time for a new field of work.”

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