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Pa. Senate race no longer tossup as Fetterman memes zero in on Oz’s wealth

The social media spat comes as new predictions show that the tight race is drifting in Fetterman’s favor

Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, Pennsylvania’s Democratic Senate nominee, has teased his Republican opponent Mehmet Oz for "crudité" shopping and his New Jersey roots. (Video: The Washington Post)

In Pennsylvania’s contentious Senate race, Democratic nominee Lt. Gov. John Fetterman is hitting his Republican rival, Mehmet Oz, where he lives.

Fetterman took aim Wednesday at the number of houses Oz owns, using the celebrity doctor and TV personality’s 10-property portfolio to paint him as a wealthy carpetbagger who is out of touch with average Pennsylvanians.

“I’ve never spoken to a PA resident who doesn’t know how many houses they have … let alone be off by 8,” Fetterman quipped on Twitter after a Tuesday report by the Daily Beast that Oz owns 10 properties — far more than the two “legitimate” houses he claimed in an exchange with a Democratic operative during a recent public event.

Oz defended himself by saying he purchased his houses with his own money — a swipe at Fetterman, who relied on significant financial assistance from his family until becoming lieutenant governor in 2019.

“You lived off your parents until you were almost 50. Regular people don’t mooch off their parents when they’re 50. Get off the couch John!” Oz tweeted. He replied to Fetterman in a follow-up tweet that he had “10 properties” but “2 homes,” which he said he disclosed when he announced his candidacy.

The social media mudslinging has been a hallmark of the race since the candidates emerged from the May primary, though Fetterman’s camp has shown far more fluency with pop culture and social media. (After the Twitter row, the Fetterman campaign trolled Oz with a game-show parody of “Family Feud” titled “How Many Houses Do You Own?”)

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The social media spat comes as new prognostications show that the tight race is drifting in Fetterman’s favor: On Thursday, the nonpartisan Cook Political Report shifted its rating of the race from “toss up” to “lean Democrat.”

With less than three months until Election Day, the news is a boon for Democrats who need to retain every seat to hold on to their Senate majority. Earlier this year, analysts had predicted November would be a wipeout for Democrats — midterms tend to be rough on the president’s party — but Democrats are hoping abortion rights and President Biden’s recent legislative wins on drug pricing and climate change will galvanize voters this fall.

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At the same time, several Republican Senate candidates endorsed by former president Donald Trump have struggled, including Oz, retired football star Herschel Walker in Georgia, and venture capitalist and author J.D. Vance in Ohio.

Fetterman has repeatedly mocked Oz for his supposed lack of Pennsylvania bona fides, enlisting New Jersey celebs to troll Oz, who spent decades as a resident of the Garden State before moving in 2020. When Oz attempted to reach voters with more slice-of-life messages, Fetterman’s team highlighted the wealthy doctor’s often-fumbling attempts to style himself as an everyman.

Most recently, an Oz campaign video from April resurfaced Monday and went viral for all the wrong reasons: In it, he bungled the name of the Pennsylvania-based supermarket Redner’s while lamenting what inflation under Biden has done to the price of crudité.

Oz has more than $100 million in assets, according to an April financial disclosure, most of it in stock holdings and real estate, which includes homes in four states and several properties in Turkey (Oz is Turkish American and holds dual citizenship in the country).

Fetterman says he has ‘nothing to hide’ on health, will be back campaigning soon

Fetterman owns Verizon stock valued between $1,000 and $15,000 and earned $255,184 from his salary as lieutenant governor. Oz has criticized Fetterman for obscuring his privileged suburban upbringing and elite education with the tattooed and hoodie-wearing image voters have come to know.

Oz, who has made millions as a skilled heart surgeon and TV personality taken under the wing of Oprah Winfrey, has blasted Fetterman for living off family money. Fetterman, whose father built a successful insurance business, acknowledged that his parents supported him financially for much of his life, including his stint as an AmeriCorps member and during his 13 years as the mayor of the small town of Braddock, Pa., where he earned a monthly salary of $150.

With just months till the November election, Fetterman’s biggest vulnerability does not appear to be Oz’s attacks, but his own health. He suffered a stroke in May just before the primary and was off the campaign trail for three months. Last week, he made his first in-person public appearance since the stroke, acknowledging that it had lingering effects on his speech and syntax.

Oz has aggressively challenged Fetterman to five debates between now and the election, a move strategists previously told The Washington Post is meant to get voters to focus on his challenger’s health.

It’s unclear if Fetterman will meet Oz on the debate stage. For now, he has been happy to go head-to-head with Oz on social media. On Thursday, the Fetterman campaign announced that it had joined TikTok — the youth voter platform of choice — and promised more viral moments ahead.

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