Public polls in Pennsylvania have been sparse and there is theoretically still time for the Democratic race to be turned upside down. But so far there has been little evidence that issues over his background or personality have dampened enthusiasm for Mr. Fetterman among many Democratic primary voters.
Understanding the Pennsylvania Primary Election
The crucial swing state will hold its primary on May 17, with key races for a U.S. Senate seat and the governorship.
He ran unsuccessfully for the Senate in 2016, but built a devoted following, and after defeat a holder to win his party’s nomination for lieutenant governor, he was a visible presence throughout the state. He had come to national attention as mayor of Braddock, a struggling former steel town he had helped revitalize. But he drew new notice levels as a cable television fixture during Pennsylvania’s 2020 vote count.
His campaign had an overwhelming fundraising advantage, an edge over television advertising and an early entry into the race. Rep. Conor Lamb — the polite western Pennsylvania moderate who became his closest rival — entered the race later and amassed notable institutional support, but struggled to break through to scale of the state or to effectively define Mr. Fetterman in negative terms.
As he walked around The Holy Hound on Thursday evening, attendees demanded selfies and offered him fries or a beer – Mr Fetterman, who often hosts campaign events at breweries and bars, refused with regret. “Shit yeah! he replied to a young participant who asked for a photo. He thanked another supporter who had already voted to be “triple awesome”.
“I feel like I could have a beer with Fetterman and we would get along,” said Robert Keebler, 45, a union worker from suburban Pittsburgh.
Mr. Fetterman is widely regarded as a progressive candidate who promotes issues such as raising the minimum wage, legalizing marijuana and eliminate the filibusterand fight for the right to vote, the right to abortion and the protection of LGBTQ people.
“Some people, you know, will say, ‘Democrats! Culture wars! What are you going to do?’ I’m like, ‘Go ahead!’ “, Mr. Fetterman told York. “If you’re getting your joys or getting your constituents excited by bullying gay and trans kids, you know, it’s time for a new line of work.”