Apr 14, 2023 - Politics

Fetterman back to Capitol Hill with swing voter support

Sen. John Fetterman

He's back. Photo: Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images

Sen. John Fetterman is returning to the Senate next week after two months of treatment for clinical depression, and swing voters who helped him get into office feel confident he’s fit to lead.

Driving the news: A pair of focus groups convened by Axios and Engagious/Sago found that the voters didn’t feel misled into voting for Fetterman despite a plethora of health problems that have plagued the early part of his tenure.

Methodology: Engagious/Sago conducted the focus groups on April 11 with 14 Pennsylvanians who voted for Donald Trump in 2016 then Joe Biden in 2020.

  • Seven are registered as Republicans, four as Democrats and three as independents.

Of note: While a focus group isn't a statistically significant sample like a poll, the responses show how some voters are thinking and talking about current events.

Details: In light of Fetterman’s health struggles, eight of the nine people who said they voted for him wouldn’t switch their votes to Mehmet Oz if given the chance today.

  • Five participants said the senator should resign and a replacement be appointed.

What they’re saying: Joey S., a 44-year-old Democrat from Kingston, commended Fetterman for talking publicly about his struggles with depression and was hopeful the senator’s release from Walter Reed Medical Center gives him a “fresh start.”

  • “These are issues that everybody faces in their life, and I give him credit for seeking help for it before it degraded his work,” he said. “I think he still has his career ahead of him.”

The other side: Jason P., a Democrat from Bushkill, was the only person who had buyer’s remorse, saying he didn’t weigh enough during the campaign whether Fetterman's stroke in 2022 could limit his effectiveness on Capitol Hill.

  • “If they said, ‘Hey, we can guarantee that within the next 90 days he's going to be seriously incapacitated,’ I definitely would've voted for Dr. Oz,” he said.

Quick take: “Senator Fetterman should feel reassured the Trump-Biden voters who supported him last November have not abandoned him due to his health struggles,” says Engagious president Rich Thau, who moderated the focus groups. “However, it’s clear he still needs to build bridges to the swing voters who supported Dr. Oz, or who chose not to vote in his race.”


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