A candidate is outspoken, willing to take progressive positions, does little to build rapport with party leaders, and dominates spaces with a 6ft 8in frame. The other creates a more moderate image, a conscious public speaker who became a congressional assistant after college and has carefully cultivated relationships within the party ever since.
Both stylistically and in terms of content, John Fetterman and Josh Shapiro meet dramatically different profiles.
But their fate – and that of the Democratic Party – is intertwined with two Pennsylvania elections that will be among the most closely watched in the United States
Fetterman is offering the Democrats their clearest path to a seat in the US Senate, which could greatly help the party retain control of the chamber.
Shapiro, meanwhile, raises even bigger existential questions as he faces a Republican gubernatorial rival who agreed to conspiracies over the last presidential election and would have significant influence over the conduct of the next in the leading battleground state.
“The stakes have never been higher, the contrast has never been clearer,” Shapiro told members of the Democratic Party’s state committee at their meeting in Gettysburg Saturday. “This Commonwealth has the power to decide if we have the 51st Senator. This Commonwealth has the power to decide whether to continue the great experiment that began 245 years ago in the city of Philadelphia.”
With the stakes so high, Fetterman and Shapiro are working on a united front ahead of the fall election.
They participate in a coordinated campaign funded and implemented by national and state party organizations, including the Democratic National Committee, the Democratic Governors Association, and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.
Together, these groups could send more money to Pennsylvania than anywhere else to register and persuade voters in what the state party calls “the largest and earliest medium-term coordinated campaign in Pennsylvania history.”
Such help from national organizations can be badly needed in a large swing state.
After supporting Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential campaign, Pennsylvania switched to Joe Biden in 2020 — but by only about 1 percentage point. And Democrats preparing for the 2022 campaign already face major challenges.
Fetterman suffered a stroke just days before winning his party’s nomination for the Senate race last month and has yet to return to campaigning or have offered many indications as to when he will. And both candidates will run in a difficult environment for Democrats, weighed down by Biden’s unpopularity and rising prices for basic necessities, groceries and gas.
Aides from both campaigns say coordination has already begun.
Fetterman and Shapiro’s campaigners say they’ve been in touch often, and Shapiro said he’s texted Fetterman since Fetterman’s stroke.
Campaign officials say they expect the men will appear together at larger events like rallies, regional campaign office openings or party events to raise money, increase voter turnout or highlight candidates for down tickets.
Earlier this month, Fetterman’s wife Gisele represented him at an event with Shapiro where they spoke at the opening of a coordinated campaign office in Pittsburgh.
“I’m looking forward to getting John out of here and I know he’s dying to get out, too,” Shapiro said Friday. Fetterman’s campaign said in a statement that “we look forward to campaigning with Shapiro and helping other Democrats in the fall election.”
For now, Fetterman’s health is hanging over the campaign as he wonders if he’s been honest about the seriousness of his condition.
Fetterman’s neurologists and cardiologists didn’t answer reporters’ questions, and the campaign lasted three weeks after the stroke to reveal he also had a serious heart condition.
Republican campaign coordination is managed by the Republican National Committee, but the party’s lead candidate — famed cardiac surgeon Dr. Mehmet Oz, who became the Senate nominee, and gubernatorial nominee Doug Mastriano – have not yet made any firm commitments to a joint campaign.
In a statement, Oz’s campaign said he “supports the Republican ticket in Pennsylvania because he believes we need to send a message to Joe Biden about inflation, gas prices and the out of control crime problem” and “looks forward to (Mastriano) on the trail this summer.”
The campaigns haven’t said if Oz and Mastriano even met, other than exchanging text messages after their respective major wins. Mastriano’s campaign did not respond to questions.
Mastriano is viewed with suspicion by party leaders and campaign strategists. He peddled Trump’s lies about widespread voter fraud in the 2020 presidential election and was a leading supporter in Pennsylvania of Trump’s efforts to overturn the result. He was also in the crowd outside the US Capitol during the Jan. 6, 2021 attack by Trump supporters after attending a Stop the Steal rally nearby.
When they campaign together, it can be awkward: Mastriano, a state senator, supported one of Oz’s rivals in the primary and criticized Oz in the campaign, at one point implying that Oz really is a liberal and a carpet digger—a Allusion to Oz moves from his longtime home in New Jersey to running in Pennsylvania.
Also, before being elected to the Senate in 2019, Mastriano repeatedly posted Islamophobic material on Facebook. Oz is Muslim.
In a statement, the RNC said it has been “on the ground” in Pennsylvania since 2016, training and mobilizing activists, registering voters, opening offices and working with the state party and its candidates.
For now, Republicans are trying to portray Fetterman and Shapiro as extreme, but also focused on Fetterman’s stroke in a digital ad, suggesting he wasn’t honest about the impact of it.
“Did John Fetterman tell the truth about his health?” says a narrator in the National Republican Senatorial Committee’s digital ad.
Democrats insist they are not worried about Fetterman recovering from the stroke, and Colleen Guiney, the Delaware County party leader, said it was only being spoken as a distraction from important issues, such as Republicans’ attempts to secure democracy destroying the county and sacrificing the dysfunctional senate through the filibuster.
Fetterman has avoided media interviews as party leaders — including Biden — seek to reassure ordinary Democrats that Fetterman is fine and can resume campaigning soon.
“I know he can’t wait to get back on track,” Biden said during a speech at last week’s AFL-CIO conference in Philadelphia. “He looks good.”
Fetterman and his wife gave a 90-second video address that was played at the state party committee meeting in Gettysburg on Saturday. In it, Fetterman emphasized the Shapiro-Fetterman ticket to compete against “the extreme, bizarre, and dangerous Oz-Mastriano ticket.”
“I’m so proud to be a part of the ticket here,” Fetterman said. “And this year we have Josh Shapiro as our next governor. And let me just let you know that very soon we will be back to being 100% back again in each of our 67 boroughs because Josh and I have always been committed to a full campaign in all 67 boroughs.”
Shapiro and Fetterman have a political relationship dating back at least to 2016, when Fetterman hosted a fundraiser for Shapiro at his Braddock home.
Still, Shapiro and Fetterman have had a strained relationship at times over conflicting positions on the state parole board — and a report just days before the primaries from The Philadelphia Inquirer underscored that.
Citing unnamed sources, the Inquirer reported that a few years ago, Fetterman threatened to run against Shapiro for governor unless Shapiro voted for specific candidates before the parole board.
Shapiro did but has denied that politics determined his votes or that such a conversation with Fetterman ever took place, and a spokesman for the attorney general’s office called the allegation “downright outrageous”. Fetterman has kept quiet about it.
Democrats say this is not a talking point among activists, and they are more focused on what’s at stake in the Nov. 8 election.
This election is about choosing between candidates “who work for an effective government that serves all of our communities,” Guiney said, and candidates who ally with “people who are willing to defend the very fabric of our democracy.” sacrificing personal gain”.