But rather than a moderate, Fetterman leaned into his progressive views.
As he worked with a few dozen voters at the Flyin’ Lion watering hole, while wearing a hoodie, basketball shorts and sneakers on a snowy spring day, Fetterman renewed his demand for the legalization of marijuana nationwide, touted the role of immigrants in the United States, who called for the transgender community to be treated equally, denounced efforts to reduce access to marijuana abortion and supported calls for tougher gun laws, including a ban on semi-automatic rifles.
Asked about calls for more bipartisanship, Fetterman didn’t flinch, saying there was little common ground in working with Republicans who undermined the legitimacy of Biden’s 2020 victory and attempted to prohibit abortion.
“I want a full head of hair too,” the 6-foot-8 bald Democrat said. “But realistically that’s not going to happen right now.”
“We’re going to hug Joe Biden,” Fetterman said in the interview.
For primary voters here, the question is not just which Democrat can flip the seat — and preserve their party’s fragile majority — but also which direction the party should go.
In Fetterman, Democratic voters could choose the only candidate in the field who has won statewide – a populist, incendiary and outspoken politician who supported Senator Bernie Sanders’ presidential race in 2016 and could excite liberals but risks turn off middle-of-the-road voters worried about the Democratic Party’s left turn.
And in Kenyatta, Democrats could choose a new face – a gay black Democrat – who would go down in history but who is little known across the state.
A staunch supporter of unions, Fetterman backs at least a $15 minimum wage, legal marijuana, universal health care and Black Lives Matter while calling climate change an “existential threat.” But he rejects the idea that he is some kind of liberal.
“I don’t want to nitpick, but I wouldn’t call myself a progressive,” Fetterman told CNN. “I think of myself as a Democrat who’s running on the same platform of ideas as every other Democrat in this race. And I can’t think of a Democrat who’s running nationally and running on something. functionally different in this respect.”
Fetterman, 52, added clearly, “If a moderate Democrat is someone who would break with the rest of the caucus and screw up Build Back Better or the Democratic agenda, then I’m not a moderate.”
Democratic candidates hunt Fetterman
Fetterman says his campaign is “uniquely structured” to overthrow the seat “despite historically difficult circumstances for Democrats” and that he will “embrace the Democratic platform and principles” while “leaning” into the Biden’s national Build Back Better program. He tells voters that Democrats need to keep Republicans from winning by “swirling margins” in conservative areas of the state like this, but clashes with one of the few Democrats in the Senate who has long been able to garner support from the republicans.
“If you’re a Joe Manchin Democrat, there’s nothing wrong with that,” Fetterman told voters last weekend in Plymouth, Pennsylvania. “But if you are, I’m not your candidate, because I’ll disappoint you if you are.”
“If we don’t take the Senate seat, it will be nearly impossible to have a majority in the Senate,” Lamb said. “I trust the common sense of grassroots Democratic voters to see that with me you’ve already had someone who’s been in the spotlight before, who’s won the kind of swing voters we need to to win.”
He argues that Fetterman is too risky to name – calling him “pretty out of the mainstream at the state level” – at a time when the party in Pennsylvania is in jeopardy. Lamb said the ‘Democratic brand’ in the state ‘hasn’t actually done so well in 2020, even though we helped get President Biden elected, obviously we lost ground from a lot of others manners”.
“We’ve never named a Democrat in Pennsylvania who supports ‘Medicare for All,'” Lamb warned.
“I mean, he’s a Democrat, as far as I know,” Lamb later said of Fetterman. “But I think the problem is more that Republicans will call any of us socialists who are running against them. Some people stick to that label more than others.”
Fetterman called Lamb’s attacks “disappointing”.
“I’ll do something that Conor won’t do,” Fetterman said. “I’ll tell you, Conor Lamb is not a socialist, and neither am I. And it’s disappointing to have someone I’d consider a friend and even help campaign for. , helping him win his first race, would turn around and use a tactical attack that was used against him and me.”
When asked if he was a socialist, Fetterman replied, “I never was.”
Lamb’s opponents don’t believe he can inspire Democrats to win in a radically different midterm election than the one that sent him to Congress.
“We’re not going to win by reading a bedtime story to our base,” said Kenyatta, 31, from Philadelphia, who thinks voters are frustrated with what they’re seeing in Washington.
“I think people look around for real and just say, ‘What are we doing? ‘” Kenyatta said.
Veteran Democratic strategist James Carville is associated with the effort. He said they would continue fundraising until the May 17 primary. Carville defended transporting the group through March, telling CNN it was “a pretty large number.”
Fetterman faces attacks following 2013 incident
A politically sensitive issue for Fetterman is an incident when he pulled a gun on a black jogger in 2013 when he was mayor of Braddock while searching for a suspected shooter. No one was injured in the incident and Fetterman did not face any charges. But his opponents have made sure to underline the controversy.
“I just think it’s fatal to his campaign to think that you can point a shotgun at an unarmed black man and, you know, not really have to answer for it,” Lamb said.
Kenyatta said Fetterman “still refuses to say the simple words of ‘I’m sorry'”.
“If he can’t apologize for something he did nine years ago, how can he be expected to engage with voters when he takes a vote that the people don’t particularly like or when he makes a statement that is irrelevant?” asked Kenyatta.
“It was never mentioned in any of the primaries while I was mayor, and it comes up over nine years later because, I guess in large part, because Conor is having trouble both in his polls and in its ability to raise funds,” says Fetterman.
“The circumstances that happened that day were done to protect my community,” Fetterman said, noting that he made a “split-second decision” and arrested the jogger, who was wearing a ski mask. .
When asked if he regretted his role in the episode, Fetterman said, “It’s not something I would go back on. But at the end of the day, I’m proud of the record I have. reached at Braddock.”
Yet Fetterman’s Braddock experience is also tattooed on him – literally. His forearm features tattoos of the dates people were killed while he was mayor, which he pointed out while discussing his support for an assault weapons ban.
“I’ve been in every scene, I would show up in every scene because their lives mattered,” Fetterman said. “And it was tragic.”
As he finished his remarks in front of the crowd in rural Pennsylvania, Fetterman vowed he wouldn’t change — not in a general election against a well-funded Republican or in the Senate if he wins in November and saves the Democratic majority in danger.
“You’ll never pick up your phone and find out that I changed my mind about minimum wage, or unions, or gay/trans equality, or women’s reproductive freedom,” he said. “You’ll never do that. You’ll never hear about that from me. I promise. I promise.”