William Katz:  Urgent Agenda

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TWO DEBATES:  Two critical debates have just been held.  In New York, the first and only debate between Democratic Governor Kathy Hochul, and her challenger, Republican Congressman Lee Zeldin, is now history.  By virtually all accounts, Zeldin sank Hochul, nailing her on the crime issues, a hot topic in New York.  From Breitbart:

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul (D), when challenged on cash bail reform and her refusal to discuss locking up criminals by Rep. Lee Zeldin (R) during Tuesday night’s debate, said, “I don’t know why that’s so important to you.”

“We’re halfway through the debate, and she still hasn’t talked about locking up anyone committing any crimes,” Zeldin said, to which Hochul responded, “Anyone who commits a crime under our laws, especially with the change we made to bail, has consequences. I don’t know why that’s so important to you.” 

She doesn't know why that's so important to Zeldin?  Is she serious?  With that line alone, Kathy Hochul lost the debate bigtime.  Zeldin is still the underdog in fanatically Democratic New York, but polls show the race as a tossup.  After this debate, if enough voters watched, Zeldin should have a lead. 

In Pennsylvania, the first and only  debate between the two contenders for a seat in the U.S. Senate is now also history.  Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman, battling the effects of a recent stroke, debated Dr. Mehmet Oz, of television fame.  From Axios: 

Capitol Hill's reaction to the Pennsylvania Senate debate was brutal for Democratic nominee John Fetterman, from Democrats and Republicans alike.

Why it matters: Multiple sources wondered why Fetterman agreed to debate when he clearly wasn’t ready. Fetterman struggled at times to respond to the moderators' questions, even with the assistance of a closed captioning device.

"Why the hell did Fetterman agree to this?" one Democratic lawmaker and Fetterman backer told Axios. "This will obviously raise more questions than answers about John's health."

Fetterman opened the debate by calling his health the "elephant" in the room.
"I had a stroke. He’s never let me forget that," he said, referring to GOP opponent Mehmet Oz.

“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.”

Fetterman did not commit to releasing his full medical records. "My doctor believes I'm fit to serve," Fetterman said.

The post-debate commentary on NewsNation focused primarily on Fetterman's health and capacity to serve.

NewsNation host Leland Vittert said "the biggest issue was John Fetterman's health and his ability to comprehend speech, and to then speak coherently on the issues of the day."

Another Pennsylvania Democratic official worried: "Everyone is nervous. I've traveled everywhere. Fetterman is a deep concern. And this debate will only increase it."

COMMENT:  It is sad that Fetterman is so impaired.  It is his record and his beliefs that should be the focus, and both place him on the hard left of the Democratic Party.  His medical condition may well diminish his chances, although some may feel sympathetic toward him, and give him the benefit of the doubt. 

The general feeling is that Oz won rather easily.  He and Fetterman are essentially neck and neck in the polls.  The Pennsylvania seat is currently held by Republican Pat Toomey, who is retiring.  It is critical for Republicans to keep it, and that means an Oz victory. 

The Senate is currently divided with 50 Republicans, 48 Democrats and two Independents, both of whom caucus with the Dems.  In other words, it's a 50-50 Senate, with Vice President and Chief Intellect Kamala Harris breaking a tie.  Republicans need to gain only one seat to have Senate control, assuming the Republicans stay united.   

October 24-25, 2022